THUNDER BAY – More bad news in the region for the struggling forestry sector. Two hundred and thirty nine employees at Resolute Forest Products in Fort Frances are being laid off from their jobs. The company announced the indefinite idling of the kraft mill and paper machine number 5 (PM5) at its pulp and paper operation in Fort Frances, Ontario. The kraft mill has an annual production capacity of approximately 200,000 metric tons of market pulp, while PM5 has an annual capacity of 105,000 metric tons of groundwood specialty printing papers.
“The markets for these products are challenging and are expected to remain so. The kraft mill situation is particularly difficult given Fort Frances’ operating configuration and the recent decision by a key customer to stop consuming the pulp supplied by Resolute to its mill,” said Resolute’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Richard Garneau. “Our kraft mill’s drying capacity is limited to about 40 percent of its production capacity, making it impossible to continue operating the mill in a profitable manner.”
Resolute is exploring alternative product possibilities for its Fort Frances pulp mill, which will be idled in a manner that will protect the equipment. The idling of PM5 is driven by the decrease in consumption as well as the high value of the Canadian dollar.
“We will monitor market conditions closely and work with key stakeholders to explore ways to improve the mill’s cost position,” added Garneau.
New Democrat Member of Parliament John Rafferty (Thunder Bay – Rainy River) said today’s announcement the layoffs at Resolute Forest Products are devastating for the workers and their families, and are a significant threat to the struggling Northwestern Ontario economy.
“This news came as a shock today,” Rafferty said. “My heart goes out to the families and constituents who are directly and indirectly affected by these layoffs. My staff and I are ready to assist anyone who will be affected by this devastating announcement.”
Sarah Campbell, the MPP for Kenora Rainy River states, “Earlier today I spoke with officials at Resolute Forest Products regarding the indefinite idling of the kraft mill and paper machine number 5 in Fort Frances. This is a very difficult day for Fort Frances and all of Northwestern Ontario and my thoughts are with the 239 workers and their families who have been affected by this decision”.
Campbell added, “While we all have reasons to be angered and frustrated by this decision, I believe we should focus our energies on working cooperatively to ensure that the length of this shutdown is minimized. While some factors, such as a declining market and the high Canadian Dollar, may be difficult to harness, many factors remain within our control and officials within the company have assured me that they are committed to finding ways to alter their product to meet changing needs and efficiencies that will ensure the long-term viability operation. They have also assured me that they are committed to protecting the mill’s assets to ensure they can reopen in the future”.
Rafferty spoke with representatives from Resolute Forest Products early on Tuesday about the layoff announcement and received assurance that the company is committed to helping affected workers during this layoff period. “We had a frank discussion about the needs of the workers, especially older workers. The lines of communication will remain open and we are ready to assist the workers in any way that we can.”
“Today we need to show our support and solidarity with the 239 affected workers and their families, but tomorrow we need to get to the bottom of why Resolute decided to reduce their operations at this time,” Rafferty said. “We owe these families some answers, but today they have our support and commitment to assist them during this very difficult period.”