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Paperworkers Strike Abitibi

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Paperworkers Strike Abitibi

Article excerpt

PAPERWORKERS AT MOST Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. mills in Canada struck the morning of June 15 .Their contract expired April 30.

Approximately 5,000 Abitibi employees walked off the job at 11 mills - five in Quebec, four in Ontario and two in Newfoundland. The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union seeks annual raises of $1.02 per hour over the next three years, as well as improvements to benefits and pensions.

The world's largest newsprint manufacturer, Abitibi said negotiations with CEP had "stalled over determination of process." While CEP wants to negotiate a single, companywide contract, Montreal-based Abitibi seeks to bargain on a mill-by-mill basis.

The company said it was advised by CEP that the union would strike its mills if there was no agreement on process. Abitibi said seven of its mills (in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom) and 60% of its newsprint tonnage "will not be affected by a strike."

Before the strike, Abitibi said it filed labor board challenges to the union's threatened action over matters of process rather than issues, calling it bad-faith bargaining and a violation of Ontario and New Brunswick labor laws. "No similar action has yet been initiated in Quebec," Abitibi said in a prepared statement.

CEP communications director Alain Cossette was reluctant to discuss particulars while the bargaining issue is before the courts. The process has been followed in some places for almost 50 years, he said, "and now all of a sudden the company doesn't want that process to apply anymore.

"There is no reason why it should change now," he added.

To compete against U.S. mills, which it called its biggest rivals, the papermaker said it must do as they do: negotiate mill by mill. That practice, it said, gives its U.S. competitors "a significant advantage in managing their day- to-day business. …

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