Abitibi pension decision forces workers to back of line

    MONTREAL, May 7 /CNW Telbec/ - Reacting angrily to today's Quebec
Superior Court ruling that allows AbitibiBowater to escape its
responsibilities to worker pensions, forestry union president Dave Coles
called it "the first salvo in a larger attack to take away workers' pensions,"
saying "the federal government must take steps immediately to address
shortfalls in the private pension system."
    The company won approval for an order under the Companies' Creditors
Arrangement Act (CCAA) to suspend pension payments towards its unfunded
liabilities for workers.
    "This decision is regrettable and profoundly unfair," said Mr. Coles,
president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. "Failure to
make pension payments will only make a company's unfunded liability grow,
setting the stage for larger pension plan deficits.
    "With the economy spiraling downward this is a scenario we can expect to
see repeated over and over as more companies -- and not just in the forest
sector -- file for bankruptcy protection, and courts decide who gets a share
of the spoils."
    "There is something seriously wrong with a system that puts workers'
pensions in the same category as banks and hedge fund credit," adds Gaétan
Ménard, CEP Secretary-Treasurer.
    "When workers go to work to earn a living and a pension, they certainly
don't see themselves as venture capitalists making a risky investment. It is
simply wrong and profoundly unfair that at a time of economic crisis, pension
payments come after banks and hedge fund loans," says Mr. Ménard. "Workers are
forced to the back of the line."
    "Private pension plans all over Canada - be they in the forest,
automobile or transportation sectors -- are in trouble," notes Dave Coles.
"The federal government must ensure that the shortfalls of the system are
addressed in a way that helps the industry restructure and protects workers."

    The 150,000-member CEP represents more than 60,000 forestry workers,
including about 8,000 AbitibiBowater employees. There are 300,000 direct and
indirect jobs in the forest sector and over 300 forest-dependent communities
in Canada.

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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