Espanola, Ontario – Business – The Domtar mill in Espanola, Ontario, is set to undergo a year-long curtailment, leaving nearly 400 Unifor members and their families in distress. The announcement, which came on Wednesday, September 6, has sent shockwaves through the community, as hopes of finding a buyer for the mill and preserving its legacy in the Ontario forestry sector have been dashed.
Lana Payne, the Unifor National President, expressed the collective devastation felt by the workers, stating, “There were hopes this mill would find a buyer and find a way to continue its legacy as a vital part of the Ontario forestry sector, but with today’s news, workers are devastated.” She also emphasized the importance of protecting workers amidst recent corporate mergers in the forestry sector, underscoring the union’s belief in safeguarding jobs through the regulatory processes surrounding such mergers.
According to the notification provided to members, the Domtar mill will cease production on November 30, 2023, with an initial curtailment period expected to last at least a year. However, there is an intention to restart operations in the future. During this period, a limited number of workers will be required on-site to maintain the mill in an idling state, ensuring that the facility remains in good working order. This, however, will represent only a fraction of the current workforce.
Chris Presley, President of Local 74 at the mill, expressed concerns about the profound impact the extended shutdown will have on the entire community, saying, “Losing this many jobs for a year or more will impact the whole community so we are, of course, hoping the shutdown will end as soon as possible.” He emphasized their immediate focus on providing support to the affected workers during this challenging transition.
The union and the company are set to hold meetings in the coming days to discuss specific details, and members will receive updates through their local union representatives. Dean Houle, President of Local 156, noted the resilience of forestry workers but acknowledged the increasing difficulty of recovering the longer the mill remains inactive, saying, “Forestry workers are used to ups and downs, but the longer we’re down, the harder it will be to get up and running again.”
Unifor Local 74 represents 250 members at the Domtar paper mill, and Local 156 represents an additional 91 workers. The mill stands as the largest employer in the town of Espanola.