Nova Scotia

Bowater mill owner delivers ultimatum

AbitibiBowater is threatening to close its paper mill near Liverpool, N.S., if the province doesn't help it come up with a plan to survive soon.
The company that runs the Bowater Mersey Paper Co. Ltd. says the costs of running the mill are getting too high. (CBC)

AbitibiBowater is threatening to close its paper mill near Liverpool, N.S., if its employees and the province don't help it soon come up with a plan to survive.

The company says Bowater Mersey Paper Co. Ltd. can't be competitive because the cost of fibre, labour and electricity are too high.

"If you're a high-cost mill, the future is very much in question, particularly when you consider the products produced are in decline certainly in the North American market," said spokesman Seth Kursman.

"Right now the Mersey mill is certainly not competitive … We've got to get competitive or the risk of that mill not having a future is very real."

The union says 175 workers have already taken a 22 per cent wage cut in the last two years to help the mill stay competitive.

Kursman said the company is looking to its employees and the Nova Scotia government to come up with plans. He didn't give details and declined to comment on the possibility of wage cuts.

Premier Darrell Dexter called an emergency meeting for all stakeholders Wednesday morning in Liverpool. Representatives from the mill, union leaders and lumber producers were among those invited.

"We talked about weeks for plans to be in place and developed to address the various challenges. So there is a great sense of urgency to move on and get things resolved," said Kursman.

Dexter said Wednesday that the government is committed to trying to save the mill.

"To do everything in our power to try and ensure we take costs out of the supply chain from one end to the other, in order to ensure that that mill in fact has a future," Dexter said. "They have now said that they'll consider that, but if they're going to make another decision other than closure, that that's going to have to be done soon."

The union says it's been aware of this situation for months.

Union spokesperson Courtney Wentzell said labour savings are more likely to be achieved through layoffs rather than further wage cuts.

AbitibiBowater announced this week it would close its mill for one week later this month.

The announcement comes after the mill appeared before provincial regulators seeking a five-year discount on power rates.