NORTH ISLAND GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Neucel Specialty Cellulose has recalled 25 workers for a Dec. 10 start date.

Workers called back to long-dormant Port Alice pulp mill

Neucel recall for maintenance only, no production restart in sight

Workers have been called back to the long-dormant Port Alice pulp mill.

But there has been no indication that a production restart is on the horizon any time soon.

According to a letter from Neucel Specialty Cellulose’s Vice President Human Resources, Warren Beatty, the mill has recalled 25 workers for a Dec. 10 start date.

“As shared in our recent ‘Market Curtailment – October 2017 – Update’ Neucel is actively engaged in discussions with potential investors to restart operations at the Port Alice Mill,” the letter stated.

“While we are not in a position to end the production curtailment at this time, we are recalling certain employees to perform maintenance to preserve the mill’s assets, to do winterization, and to prepare for a site visit from potential investors and the external engineering study… Work is currently estimated to be scheduled across a four-month period, with the possibility of extended or expanded work based on the progress of negotiations with investors.”

The recall notice gave the employees until Nov. 24 to decide whether or not they would be returning to work.

If the recalled Neucel workers do not show up for work on Dec. 10, they will have been deemed to have abandoned their employment, “and your employment with Neucel will end, unless there is a bonafide reason for your failure to report,” wrote Beatty, adding, “Other employment is not considered a bonafide reason.”

Beatty declined further comment.

The mill halted production in March of 2015 in a curtailment — originally announced as planned for six months — that has continued indefinitely. It is by far the major employer and taxpayer in Port Alice, which has seen its population drop to 664 residents in the 2016 census from 805 in 2011 and 1,126 in 2001.

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