TRITON — Sometimes, Lindy Vincent and the loggers and silviculture workers he represents, feel like they’ve been forgotten about.
Vincent is president of Local 60N of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represents woodlands employees who work for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.
In the logging industry for 25 years, the Triton resident was once the union’s secretary/treasurer years ago. He returned to the executive in June after the presidency was vacated and was acclaimed to the position when elections were held earlier in September.
The woodlands workers have been without a new collective agreement with the paper company since Dec. 31, 2008, even longer than the CEP unions inside the mill that agreed to new labour contracts this past June.
They, along with CEP Local 495 — which represents employees at Deer Lake Power, have yet to enter negotiations with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.
There are still two unions, of the six inside mill, that are still in the process of trying to reach new deals with the company.
“We’re just waiting in line,” said Vincent. “When negotiations inside the mill are completed, we’ve been told we’re next in line. I guess the problem we’ve got is the public, and even government at times, don’t seem to realize that, in order to make paper, we need wood. Sometimes we feel like we’re forgotten.”
The woodlands workers have been told to be ready to meet with the company in late fall.
Like the unions inside the mill, they have not been insisting on entering into negotiations because it’s likely they will also be asked to agree to concessions.
“With the state the paper industry is in, we are in the same boat as the mill unions were,” he said.
“We put off negotiations and hoped things would improve, but it doesn’t seem that way right now.”
Vincent said the members of his union make, on average, less than mill employees do, and they also endure tougher working conditions for the most part. In addition to sometimes working in rough terrain, woodlands employees stay in camps for up to a week at a time while working.
In 1989, Local 60N had around 2,000 members. They now number around 300 people, spread out across 51 communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
The local lost about half of its ranks when the former Abitibi-Bowater company shut its mills in Stephenville and then in Grand Falls-Windsor in recent years.
With the newsprint industry continuing to struggle, Vincent has seen many members give up on the profession since those mill closures and with future prospects looking less than promising.
“I guess there are a lot of fellas saying, if I’m going to be gone all week and away from my family, I might as well be up in Alberta in the oil industry, making more money,” said Vincent.