CORNER BROOK — "I've got 11 years out of them, if I can get 10 more I'm fine with that."
That sentiment from a retired Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill worker in passing Tuesday could be the sentiment of a lot of former employees. There continues to be as much uncertainty and risk surrounding the future of the pension plan as the mill itself heading into Tuesday's meetings with members.
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. is again requesting approval on a one-time temporary funding relief on its pension payments. The additional five years to pay the approximately 30 per cent unfunded portion of the plan was voted down. The alleged discovery of a proposed change in the pension formula that could have led to a 25 per cent reduction of pensions was identified as the primary reason.
With commitments and assurances of that not being the case, the company is again requesting the relief measure.
A pair of meetings were scheduled Tuesday to again discuss the proposal. In the afternoon session, less than 20 people attended — primarily retirees.
The retired mill worker hoping to see his pension benefits continue for at least a decade declined an interview following the meeting held at the Pepsi Centre, as did a number of his former fellow workers. A couple of the retirees said the meeting was of a similar format and discussion as the previous ones, with one man saying he was more confused now than before.
John Wagner said the meeting was the same as they had before, with nothing he heard to change the way retirees voted previously. Retirees voted to accept the relief measure, but current workers denied it.
"It was pretty much a rehash of what we had before," he said. "I came to see if there was anything knew, but there was nothing really."
Wagner does not expect retirees to change their vote, but said he cannot speculate on what the union workers will do this time.
Although retirees were in support of granting the relief measure, there is still a lot of uncertainty and fear among the former workers. During the meeting, a number of them asked details of what would happen to the pension and other mill assets, particularly Deer Lake Hydro, if the company goes bankrupt. Another individual was overheard saying the workers signed a poor contract, the mill is not up to par, the morale is very poor, and he is of the opinion that Kruger does not want to keep the mill open long term.
The unidentified company representative did say the mill is a good asset to Kruger and the company thinks it will be open a long time. He said if Corner Brook Pulp and Paper goes bankrupt everybody loses, including the company. He assured those in attendance the pension plan and the mill assets would remain if that was to happen.
Pension plan members must file objection forms by Aug. 17 if they oppose granting the five-year extension. If not more than one-third of the eligible and former members object, the relief measure will be approved.