On July 9, 2012, the Nova Scotia Labour Board filed an interim order certifying Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 972, the combination of three previously separate bargaining units, namely the Mill Division, Clerical Division and the Woodlands Division, as the bargaining unit for employees of the NewPage pulp and paper plant in Port Hawkesbury NS.
The mill, which closed in September 2011, has a new prospective owner, Pacific West Commercial Corp. of British Columbia. There have been many significant hurdles to overcome for the sale including issues relating to profit sharing, taxes and power rates which involved the Province of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Power Corp., the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and Richmond County.
Earlier this year, the Company successfully negotiated the following terms with CEP Local 972:
- This will be a 10 year agreement, in effect until December 31, 2022
- Only 229 of the former 550 unionized positions will exist
- Only the super-calendar paper mill will operate
- The newsprint machine will be permanently shut down
- The steam plant will be taken over by Nova Scotia Power
- 80 percent of each major area will be staffed by senior employees
- The remaining 20 percent of staffing is up to the company’s sole discretion
- Senior employees not offered positions will be entitled to severance payments
- Anyone offered a job has 7 days to accept or retain recall rights for 12 months
- $12 million over 10 years will go towards severance payments, as well as benefits for retired and disabled former employees
- Severance will be based on 1.5 percent of the employee’s total earnings for the full period of continuous service with the company
- Senior group employees not offered jobs would receive an additional payment of $10,000
- The old pension plan that is underfunded by more than $100 million, will be discontinued
- A new defined contribution pension plan will be established with matching contributions of 5 percent
- Wages will remain relatively the same over the life of the agreement
The terms were ratified by 85 percent of the Local’s members.
After very recent on-again, off-again negotiations with the Province of Nova Scotia, it would appear that the final sale of the mill will go through on Friday, September 28, 2012, subject to acceptance of a property tax proposal by Richmond County Council. If all goes as planned, the mill will re-open this October. Copies of the new collective agreement will be available after the final sale.
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