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Abitibi's blackmail of workers and people of Newfoundland



ALONG WITH other forestry monopolies, Abitibi Consolidated continues to act as if it owns the areas in which it operates and can blackmail anyone and everyone according to the logic: "Either you do it our way, or we will devastate you."

At the beginning of 2005, Abitibi announced an in-depth review of its operations in Canada and abroad, including a review of its newsprint facilities. This review led to the closing of the Port-Alfred plant in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Quebec. In Newfoundland, Abitibi has two newsprint plants, one in Grand Falls-Windsor and another in Stephenville. Close to 800 people work in these two plants and the livelihoods of many more depend on them.

Abitibi presented an ultimatum to Newfoundland. It said that overall the company is losing money and specifically with the Newfoundland operations. It demanded concessions from the workers and the government; otherwise it is threatening to fully or partially close these two facilities.
Every time we sign a contract with them, they come up asking for concessions and they violate the collective agreement. We are also calling upon the government to uphold the law regarding the timber licenses. We are demanding that the provincial government conducts an inquiry into the operations of Abitibi Consolidated in Newfoundland.


The company has coined the formula "one business, two machines." By this it means the planned shutdown of one of the two papermaking machines in Grand Falls-Windsor and operating with one machine in each plant. At the same time, it wants the provincial government to consider these two plants as one. This is part of Abitibi's attempt to retain its timber license, in spite of the fact that forestry legislation makes its timber license conditional on maintaining the two machines in operation. People think that Abitibi would then move part of the wood supply allocated to Grand Falls to the operation in Stephenville.

Abitibi is also demanding that the provincial government lower the cost of hydroelectricity at the Stephenville operation, otherwise it is threatening to shut it down.

The company is also demanding concessions from the workers even though they have a legally binding contract that was signed by both parties. The unions are being pressured to come up with concessions under the hoax of "lowering labour costs." In addition, 56 workers were recently laid off at the Grand Falls facility. They were brutally sent home a few hours after the beginning of their shift. The union says that Abitibi has started replacing them with contractors. Ron Smith from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) told TML Daily that this is being done in violation of the job security clauses of the contract and of the clause on contracting out.

"This has become a pattern with Abitibi Consolidated," he said. "Every time we sign a contract with them, they come up asking for concessions and they violate the collective agreement. We are also calling upon the government to uphold the law regarding the timber licenses. We are demanding that the provincial government conducts an inquiry into the operations of Abitibi Consolidated in Newfoundland."

Abitibi Consolidated is demanding the "right" to break legal arrangements that provide a measure of stability to the workers and people. This would greatly increase the im-poverishment of workers and whole communities and create more chaos in the lives of the people without sorting out any of the problems of the forestry industry.

This is an unsustainable path that the workers and people of Newfoundland are vigorously opposing.

Source: TML Daily, July 20, 2005 - No. 125, www.cpcml.ca


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