While most of us are celebrating the Christmas season, more than 100 workers at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper are settling into two weeks without work.
Those workers have been given a fortnight collecting employment insurance or taking vacation time because the mill’s owner, Kruger Inc., is trying to take some production out of the operation by shutting one of the mill’s two massive newsprint machines.
While being without work during Christmas is old hat for many Newfoundlanders, present and past, this turn of events is more worrisome because of the general state of the newsprint industry for most of the last decade.
These select workers will manage to get through the time off and put it to good use celebrating the yuletide, but how much more downtime to reduce inventories are all workers facing at the aging mill? There was some optimism that with changes by management and sacrifices by the workforce the mill would be able to keep running until the world’s production of newsprint better matched consumption.
This latest machine stoppage and other events across the country put that into some increased doubt.
After all the cutbacks, rationalization and sacrifices by workers, is there any room for any more trimming to make the mill more cost effective and competitive? This coming year could be a watershed for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and the many communities which depend on its economic spinoffs.
Some workers continue to fight wage cuts and the provincial government remains on the sidelines.
The provincial government has promised still undefined help for the mill, but first want negotiations with all workers to be completed before wading in.
Two weeks isn’t a long time but it could be dark harbinger for the mill, workers and all citizens of the region.
Not a festive way to enter 2013.