Road to Chibougamau and Chapais Blockaded - The people want to meet with Jean Charest

    QUEBEC CITY, March 10 /CNW Telbec/ - At 3:30 this morning, the people of
Chibougamau began a blockade of the two roads leading into town. They are
demanding an emergency meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest. "The survival
of a community of 7,500 people is at stake, and so is their livelihood," said
United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos (FTQ) spokesperson Stéphane Desgagné
and Bruno Marceau, president of Union Local 8644. "We are not asking for
anything complicated. We simply want to maintain our supply of 800,000 cubic
metres of timber. We won't allow ourselves to be penalized for the benefit of
multinational companies while our wood is shipped outside the country."
    The protesters are blockading only trucks - including those of
sub-contractors - transporting material to the Eastmain work site. Traffic
flow is unimpeded for most citizens. "This approach was decided on at a
meeting of close to 2,000 Chibougamau residents, held yesterday at the arena.
The people have given us a clear mandate to pursue pressure tactics," the
union leaders added.

    The government must respect its commitments

    "The Charest government had assured us that Chantier Chibougamau would
continue to have access to a supply of 200,000 cubic metres of lumber within
the boundaries of the Parc de Chibougamau, following the closure of the
Abitibi-Bowater mill. But the government has caved in to pressure, penalizing
Chantier Chibougamau - a company that has made the recovery of wood materials
a priority. Meanwhile, this same government has held up the company as a model
for the survival of the forestry industry in Quebec. In the rest of the
province, it takes 3,500 cubic metres of wood to create one job. At Chantier
Chibougamau, there is one job for every 1,000 cubic metres. The company has
had remarkable success in secondary and tertiary processing, notably in the
manufacture of wooden girders. What will it take to convince the government?"
Local 8644 president Marceau said.

    We want fairness

    Marceau noted that the people of Chibougamau are simply seeking the same
treatment as those in other regions of Quebec. He says, "We want to retain
access to timber so that the people of our region can earn a living. It is
important to understand that in Chibougamau we face unique challenges that
other forestry companies do not have to deal with. For instance, our harvests
are limited by trapping areas, our timber is located at a distance from the
mill, and we pay more for access to the forest. The Government of Quebec
negotiated a new agreement with the Cree, nation to nation. We understand
that. But we believe that the constraints we face should be shared by the
forestry industry and Quebecers as a whole. The people of Chibougamau should
not have to bear the brunt all by themselves."

For further information:

For further information: Stéphane Desgagné, United Steelworkers/Syndicat
des Métallos (FTQ), (418) 699-0171, (418) 719-7799 (cell); Bruno Marceau,
United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos (FTQ), (418) 748-3223, (418) 770-
9560 (cell)

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