CORNER BROOK — If the unions at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper can find a way to accept the labour agreement offered to them, Bruce Randell says it will be no thanks to his union's national office.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Local 242 union president said criticism from Dave Coles, the CEP's national president, levelled at the mill union's local leadership was unwanted and may actually harm the sensitive process mill workers are going through this week.
In an article in Monday's edition of The Western Star, Coles said the unions at Corner Brook should accept the offer left with them by Kruger late last Friday night. In addition, Coles said the local union executives lacked leadership by not making a recommendation on the contract left with them at the company-imposed deadline.
Kruger has now given the union memberships until this coming Friday to vote on the contract.
Randell said he has been trying to talk to Coles for the last four months, but the national president has not been in communication with him. He said there was even no contact when Randell tried to talk to Coles about the five-year extension to replenish the pension fund the company had asked for and which was rejected by the unions in May.
"Dave Coles has no credibility anymore — none," Randell said after reading Monday's article. "All he's doing is hurting our cause. We are trying to get a collective agreement here in Corner Brook that people can live with. That is the ultimate goal. We don't need the criticism.
"Hopefully, he hasn't hurt our objective of getting a tentative deal. I say, 'hopefully,' because my members are tired of the rhetoric."
The CEP has encouraged other unions throughout the beleaguered newsprint industry to accept concessions, thereby setting a pattern of collective agreements that Randell said Corner Brook Pulp and Paper's employees are now expected to go along with without question.
Every mill has it's own factors to consider and Randell said Coles is out of touch when it comes to the situation in Corner Brook.
"If he wants to question my leadership, why doesn't he pick up the phone and phone me?" asked Randell. "Or, better still, why doesn't he get on a plane and fly down here and meet face-to-face with the local leadership that he questions, and have a better understanding of what's going on ... Did I get a phone call from Dave Coles? No. Do I need to talk to Dave Coles about certain issues? Yes. And I asked four months ago to get a hold of him."
The executive of Local 242 hopes a deal can be reached, but will not be telling its members to rubber stamp the deal now before them, said Randell.
He said the mill's employees are smart enough to understand the state of their industry, what's happening at the Corner Brook mill specifically and what they are willing to accept in a new collective agreement.
"We are going to explain that to our members," he said. "We are not going to get out in the media and start scaring the bewilders out of our people. We'll tell them behind closed doors and let them — intelligent enough people as they are — make a sound decision based on facts, not on scare tactics."
Randell acknowledged this collective agreement is not like any other in the mill's history.
"This is for all the marbles and people are going to have to do some soul-searching themselves," he said of the consideration each and every member will have to give to this contract offer.
Randell would not discuss any details of the offer given to the unions by the company. Union members can pick up their copies of the offer at the West Newfoundland Press Club between 2 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Meetings and voting on the offer will take place at Club 64 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursday for Local 242.
All of the mill's unions will complete their voting procedures by Friday.