Workers Ratify Contract with AbitibiBowater

THUNDER BAY – The trend of AbitibiBowater workers to seek to protect the pensions and benefits for retired workers continues. The move comes via ratification of the latest contract with AbitibiBowater and its workers.

Workers at AbitibiBowater pulp and paper mills have voted 63.5% to approve a new collective agreement that includes cost reductions for the company, but protects pensions for retirees and workers.

“Our members have voted to protect retirees and pensions, and to bring this company out of bankruptcy protection,” said Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada National President Dave Coles. “However, I must emphasize that everything we have negotiated and ratified is now conditional on government approval in Québec and Ontario.”

The five-year agreement until 2014 maintains all current pensions and accrued pension service, but also includes a new jointly managed pension plan with 10% employer contributions for future service. The agreement also includes a 10% wage reduction with wage increases resuming in 2012 and 2013.

“This agreement is not the product of free collective bargaining,” added Coles. “It is a painful adjustment with a company under bankruptcy protection – part of an industry that has been all but abandoned by the federal government during the financial crisis.

“Workers are making major sacrifices for this company to survive, but we now expect the new owners and governments to invest in our future and to rebuild this company.”

The agreement covers about 3,000 CEP members in 18 local unions at the following locations: Amos, Baie-Comeau, Gatineau, Kenogami and Laurentide mills in Quebec, as well as two indefinitely closed mills, Dolbeau and Beaupré; Thorold, Fort Frances, Iroquois Falls and Thunder Bay mills in Ontario; and the Liverpool mill in Nova Scotia.

This Friday, CEP members from all pulp and paper mills in Eastern Canada will meet in Montreal to determine the union’s strategy for pattern bargaining with the rest of the industry.