More than 70 workers at the Catalyst Crofton pulp and paper mill have been laid off.
Travis Gregson, president of Unifor Local 1132 which represents about 85 of the approximately 570 employees at the mill, said the mill’s newsprint and package grading machines were shut down on Wednesday night impacting many of his members.
He said the union and the workers were given notice of the lay-offs nine days before the shutdown. Company officials have no comment at this time.
Gregson said the work curtailment is expected to last about two weeks, but management set no hard date for when the machines will start up again, and workers have received no notification from the company as to when they will be returning to work.
He said the work curtailment is related to the ongoing decline in demand in newsprint around the world, the growing trade war with China, where many of the mill’s products are sold, and the current high cost and lower grade of wood chips.
The mill usually receives its wood chips, used to produce pulp and paper products, from Western Forest Products, but the workers at WFP have been on strike since July 1, virtually cutting off the forest company’s wood chip supply to Crofton.
A few members of PPWC Local 2, which represents the bulk of the workers at the Crofton mill, that work in support positions have also received lay-off notices due to the shutdown of the two machines.
“The work curtailment will effect all of my members one way or another, but about 70 are receiving lay-off notices,” Gregson said.
“Some intend to take some of their vacation time, while others are making themselves available for the maintenance projects that the mill is undertaking during the down time.”
Gregson said work curtailments and shut downs are happening at mills across Canada as they face many of the same market pressures.
He reassured his members and the community that the Crofton mill, which was taken over by Paper Excellence Canada earlier this year, as well as two other mills that were owned by Catalyst Paper, is in a “good situation”, despite the work curtailment.
Gregson said the mill has a great deep-water port in Crofton and it has the lowest costs of the other two mills that were previously owned by Catalyst Paper.
“Although, in the future, I do see a swing away from newsprint,” he said.
“It’s an unusual situation. I’ve been working here for the 33 years and during election years, the general rule was that we’d get more orders for our products for advertising in election campaigns. But, these days, that is increasingly done on television or online.”
Gregson said he’s pleased that the mill intends to keep as many of the laid off workers busy with maintenance projects during the lay-off as possible.
“It’s good that the company is working hard to keep the workers involved,” he said.