MONTREAL, May 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada`s largest forest union today
launched a national campaign demanding that the federal government act now to
protect forest jobs and pensions.
Hundreds of forestry workers, representing thousands more across the
country, demonstrated in front of AbitibiBowater today, carrying signs that
read: "Forest Workers Fight Back" and "Wake Up Harper!" The members of the
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union are in Montreal today and
tomorrow to flesh out a national action plan and discuss bargaining strategy.
"Workers are not responsible for the crisis in the forest industry, but
we are the ones facing demands for cuts to our wages and pensions," CEP
President Dave Coles told the demonstrators. "It is totally unfair that a
company like AbitibiBowater can use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying
severance and making payments to the pension plan."
Coles stressed, however, that the main target in the union's campaign is
the federal government.
"The Harper government has clearly blown off forest communities. Forestry
in Canada is and can be a very profitable industry if it was properly managed.
But it is being decimated because of federal government policies that permit
unfair competition from the U.S. - such as NAFTA and the Softwood Lumber
Agreement. Give us a level playing field and Canadian forest companies would
be unbeatable," he says.
CEP Regional Vice-President Renaud Gagné, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles
Duceppe, NDP Leader Jack Layton, and Canadian Labour Congress President Ken
Georgetti also addressed the crowd.
CEP is demanding that the federal government step up to the plate with
loan guarantees that will put a stop to permanent mill closures and that it
protect jobs and pensions. The statement outlining CEP's demands, which was
adopted by the Montreal meeting, can be found at www.cep.ca.
The demonstration is the first of many actions that will happen
nationally and in forest communities across Canada, over the next few weeks.
On June 2, the union is planning a large demonstration in Ottawa as well as
actions in forest communities across the country. Forest workers and their
supporters have already sent hundreds of letters to Prime Minister Stephen
Harper and Human Resources Minister Lisa Raitt.
"Stay tuned," adds Coles. "Our voices will be getting louder in the
coming days and weeks."
For further information:
For further information: Dave Coles, (613) 299-5628