BURNABY, BC, Dec. 10 /CNW/ - In a move that confirms Steelworkers' fear that the company locked out its employees at its Pine Falls newsprint mill because it intends to close the plant anyway, Tembec has now asked its workforce to give up their severance benefits as a condition for lifting the lockout.
Steelworkers and members of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees at Pine Falls have been locked out since August; Tembec has now asked them to sign away their right to severance pay as a condition of ending the lockout - even though the company also says it plans to sell the mill.
"It simply proves that the lockout took place because Tembec wanted to blame its employees for a shutdown that it planned all along," said United Steelworkers Western Canada director Steve Hunt. "Now that Tembec admits they are closing or selling the mill, our members are owed severance pay but the company doesn't want to pay it. Instead, they want them to just give up their jobs and give up their severance."
Hunt noted that Tembec's latest demands simply get in the way of efforts by the union and the Manitoba government to resolve the dispute and ensure that a new buyer can be found; Steelworkers have supported efforts by the Sagkeeng First Nations to purchase the mill. "We're prepared to continue working with the provincial government and the band to get a fair settlement and see whether the mill can viably operate."
"This repeats Tembec's trick of not paying severance to workers in Cranbrook, BC, when it closed its planer mill there," notes Steelworkers Wood Council chair Bob Matters. "It's a move that shows how desperate Tembec has become. Only a company that's panting for cash would want to stiff its employees this way."
"This dispute will only be settled when Tembec takes its outrageous concessions off the table, negotiates honestly and treats its employees with respect," Hunt said.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
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