Call it layoffs or call it a reduction in positions, either way the workforce at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. has been cut.
The Western Star reported Friday that 12 unionized positions — eight from Local 64 and four from Local 242 — had been eliminated at the mill. Both locals are represented by Unifor.
Local management directed questions about the cuts to the mill’s parent company, Kruger Inc. No interview was provided.
In an email to The Star, Jean Majeau, senior vice-president of corporate affairs and communications, said that there were no layoffs at the mill.
He said impacted employees will remain employed with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper as part of the casual pool.
“We anticipate the impacts on employees will be mitigated in the coming months through attrition.”
When asked to clarify the difference between having a person move into the casual pool and someone getting a layoff, Majeau said affected employees occupying regular positions received layoff notices. He added those employees have the right to a bumping process.
“We anticipate that five employees will be moved to the casual pool as a final result of the restructuring.”
It was reported Friday that the four positions from Local 242 were near the bottom of the pool and were currently unfilled.
Local 64 president Chris Hawkins told The Star the Countervailing duty imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Canadian newsprint exported to the United States was the reason behind the job reductions.
Kruger was tagged with a preliminary tariff of 9.93 per cent on all uncoated groundwood paper, such as newsprint, sold to the U.S.
In the email, Majeau said the tax is having an impact on the business of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and the company has started a plan to reduce its costs to ensure its long-term competitiveness.
“As part of this cost-reduction plan we have undertaken a labour restructuring of union and staff focused on achieving efficiencies throughout the organization.”
What others had to say
Mayor Jim Parsons
“I think that’s the mill doing what it has to do to get through this tariff.
“And I know some of the jobs were not filled currently, so that’s better than it could be.
“I understand they have to take steps necessary to protect the interest of the mill overall.”
MHA for Corner Brook
Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources
“Whenever anyone faces a job loss you have to approach it with empathy and compassion. This is a very serious turn of events in anyone’s life. We will be reaching out to them to offer any possible support that we can.
“The provincial government, and myself as minister, we are very, very open and ready to work with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper to seamlessly partner on improving the overall competitiveness of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. And in my mind that means about adding jobs and not taking them away.”
President, Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade
“You never want to see anything that’s going to potentially take money out of the local economy. So, you see a potential reduction in employment with some good-paying jobs in the region, that’s going to have a negative impact on the local economy. That’s never a good thing.
“But having said that, the reality is the mill’s facing a 9.9 per cent tariff that’s imposed by (President Donald) Trump’s government in the U.S. So, they have to respond and they have to adjust."
MHA Humber-Bay of Islands
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment
“It’s always tough when there’s any layoffs in the area. I’m not sure of the circumstances of these layoffs, but from reading the comments today the unions were expecting some way to help cut costs with the company.
“As we know there’s potential tariffs in place. Premier (Dwight) Ball and the government is working with the federal government to work on that, to minimize any effect on the operations here in the Corner Brook area."
NOTE: Edited to correct the name of the union