Abitibi bankruptcy: Workers have done their part, gov't must step in

    OTTAWA, April 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Reacting to today's bankruptcy
announcement by AbitibiBowater, the president of Canada's largest forestry
union stressed that workers have done all they can to help mills survive, and
it is high time for employers and governments to do their part.
    "The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada has explored
every angle to save jobs and mills," says Dave Coles. "Workers have already
done more than their fair share."
    "Since 2004, pulp and paper workers in almost every mill have been in
constant negotiations and restructuring to assist companies and mills to
survive. They have negotiated efficiency and productivity improvements worth
hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for the companies.
    "We believe firmly that jobs and mills cannot be saved by attacking
workers' wages and pensions," says Mr. Coles, "or by breaking the common
industry standards that have been established by our pattern bargaining
system. We now want assurances that the pensions of workers and retirees will
be protected. Asked about plans for pattern bargaining with Abitibi, which was
to begin this summer. Mr. Coles says he is awaiting news on the companies
restructuring plans. "We cannot go to the bargaining table without knowing who
is sitting across from us."
    Mr. Coles had some harsh words for the federal government in its
treatment of the industry: "While the world's largest forestry company
teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, with 12,000 jobs in jeopardy, the Prime
Minister maintained that Canada's economy was doing fine.
    "Newspapers and air waves are filled with stories of government plans to
aid the auto sector, yet our requests for debt re-financing for forestry
companies were ignored," he says, noting that "forestry employs twice the
number of workers as the auto sector."
    "Instead, the federal government recycles old announcements to create the
appearance of action such as at Tuesday's news conference by the natural
resources minister.
    Coles adds that "Canada's forest industry is facing a further challenge
as American forest companies stand to gain billions of dollars in unfair
subsidies by manipulating a tax credit that was designed to promote bio-fuels.
"This could sound the death knell for the already beleaguered industry."

For further information:

For further information: Dave Coles, (613) 299-5628

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Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

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