AbitibiBowater laid off workers vote to reopen mill

The company that runs a Gatineau paper mill says it's considering reopening its plant just more than a year after shutting it down.

Workers who were laid off from a Gatineau paper mill over a year ago have voted in favour of reopening the plant, after the company who owns said it considered reopening.

AbitibiBowater, which closed the plant indefinitely in May 2010, says it could soon turn one of the plant's two paper machines back on.

"One thing is key here. We're looking to produce newsprint at a very low cost, a very competitive cost," said company spokesman Pierre Choquette.

More than 300 workers were laid off due to the closure, but now about 1/3 of the employees could return if they approve a new labour agreement Thursday.

AbitibiBowater has closed one other plant in Quebec and one in Newfoundland in the last couple years as it fought to escape bankruptcy protection.

The company spokesman said the goal for the Gatineau plant includes exporting newspaper to Latin American and Asia. This comes after the company hired a new CEO and conducted an entire analysis of its production about one year ago.

The City of Gatineau also persuaded AbitibiBowater to conduct a $100,000 feasibility study of a plan to reopen its plant.

Retired worker Mark Boisseau, who used to be in charge of one of the plant's paper machines, said a reopening would be a dream come true.

Boisseau said he was crushed by the closure three months before his retirement. He suffered a heart attack soon after.

The plant's reopening could mean he gets his long-awaited pension.

"I wished, I hoped," said Boisseau, "I always believed they would open again. It was my life for almost forty years."

The company still needs to set a contract for raw materials and one with Hydro Quebec before business is back up and running.

Montreal-based AbitibiBowater operates 19 pulp and paper mills and 24 wood products facilities in the U.S., Canada and South Korea.


With files from the CBC's Ashley Burke