CORNER BROOK — Information packages on Corner Brook Pulp and Paper's proposed pension plan funding relief measure have once again gone out to active employees and pensioners.
Kruger Inc., the mill's parent company, is seeking an extra five years to fund the roughly 30 per cent unfunded portion of its pension plan. That request was initially turned down in May, but remains a part of the mill's future viability.
But this time around Gerald Parsons doesn't see a need for pensioners to vote on the relief measure.
"I don't even know why they sent them out to us," said Parsons, chair of the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Union Pensioners Committee.
He said he's repeatedly told Finance Minister Tom Marshall the "retirees got enough of trouble now. They're confused over all this and we've already voted 95 per cent (in favour of the relief measure).
"And they still sent them out to us," said Parsons.
"We have people out there 80 odd years old who don't know what to do with theirselves."
He said these people are under enough stress and then they get another package in the mail.
Parsons got his package earlier this week and said it doesn't appear to be any different than the last one.
That's why he's telling pensioners who contact him about the package if they've got no problem with it and didn't in the past, then "just leave it alone and throw it in the garbage."
Parsons said the only group that needs to re-vote on the proposal is the active employees.
It was that group's rejection of the offer in May that resulted in the company issuing a statement to say it was reassessing the viability of the operation and was later followed by an ultimatum to the unions at the mill to settle contract negotiations by June 15.
If the contracts were settled, the company said it would hold another vote on the pension relief.
Contracts were reached with most of the unions including the two biggest ones, Locals 64 and 242 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
With those agreements in place Parsons thinks the results will be different with the workers this time around.
"I think they'll accept it. They've already accepted ... so I guess this is not going to hurt them a lot," said Parsons.
"No one likes concessions and was he serious? Your guess is as good as mine," said Parsons referring to Joe Kruger, the company's chief executive officer, and his threat the mill would close if workers didn't accept the offered contract which included a pay cut.
Still, Parsons said the workers had a good reason to turn down the pension relief measure the last time.
The only problem he can see right now is that the company is still negotiating a contract with its trade unions.
Parsons said people may think if the mill shuts tomorrow morning that all it means is the mill is gone.
"But people don't understand it. There's $15 to $18 million in pensions coming into Corner Brook every year. The spinoff alone from that is amazing."
He said the future of small towns is also at risk as people who work as loggers depend on the mill for a livelihood. And, he said there are three sawmills on the island that also depend on it.
"But at the end of the day he's (Kruger) got to put money back into the mill. He's got to modernize the mill, if not the mill is not going to survive anyway," said Parsons.
Despite all the upheaval of recent months, Parsons said he heard the mill made 900 tonnes of paper a couple of days ago and that last month was one of the best it's had in years.
Meanwhile, Kruger confirmed the pension relief information packages have been sent out, but declined to comment further.
Anyone who opposes the relief measure has until Aug. 17 to do so. The package contains a form that can be forwarded to a local chartered accountant.
Those who support it do nothing.
If not more than one-third of eligible members and eligible former members object to the measure, the extension of the five-year period will proceed.
The company will hold two information sessions for plan members only on July 17 at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in room 2 at the Pepsi Centre.