CORNER BROOK — Gerry Byrne doesn’t think that the full story is being told about the viability of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd.
On Sunday night, the Liberal MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte hopes to fill in some of the gaps when he hosts a forum on the paper mill at the Pepsi Centre. Byrne plans to reveal the details of an independent assessment he had completed on the mill’s economic viability.
The meeting is open to everyone and Byrne would like to see representation from the management of the Kruger Inc.-owned facility, employees, pensioners, community leaders and the general public.
Byrne said much of the conversation on the viability of the mill has centred around labour costs and recently the concessions Kruger wants to extract from current employees and pensioners.
“The reality is that viability of a paper mill is not based on one cost consideration and one cost consideration alone,” said Byrne.
Mill efficiency, mill productivity and mill competitiveness, he said, is based on a wide range of costs and variables including labour, fibre, energy, the chemicals used in paper production, overhead and shipping.
He also said viability is measured by capital reinvestment or lack of, technological complexity and the cumulative level of paper production relative to its overall size and age of current capital stock.
Byrne sought advice from the Canadian Forest Products Council and other third parties with an interest in the situation in finding someone to conduct an analysis of the situation. Using some of his MP’s office budget he commissioned U.S.-based Fisher International Inc. to complete the study. The company has extensive experience in analyzing the global pulp and paper industry.
Fisher International looked at the efficiency and cost characteristics of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and also analyzed the entire newsprint industry of North American and compared Corner Brook to every one of its competitors.
Byrne said the report is purely analytical, but shows more sides to the story.
“When you look at an overall analysis of the full range of costs at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and its relative competitiveness vis-a-vis other North American newsprint mills and the benefits that accrue from being directly on a seaport then a lot of people have been saying things that have either been deliberately misleading or they really don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Byrne said this past week’s developments from a meeting between Joe Kruger, chief executive officer of Kruger, and the provincial government to the company’s demand that unions complete contract negotiations by June 15, have further raised his ire over the situation.
When asked if he was concerned that this was the end of the mill, Byrne replied: “there is a possibility here that Mr. Kruger has already decided to close it.”
That thought comes out of consultations he’s had with other interested parties who point to layoffs of pipefitters, welders and electricians ... those who maintain the equipment at the mill.
“That’s a pretty strong signal,” he said. “It’s normally a sign you’re shutting the mill or you’re not seriously looking at what the true viability questions are.”
The forum will get underway at 7:30 p.m.