Dryden to lose paper machine

U.S. forestry giant Weyerhaeuser Co. is closing two paper operations in Canada, affecting more than 800 jobs in Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan.
The moves, announced late yesterday, reflect a continued slump in the North American paper industry, which has been hit hard by rising energy costs and weak demand from traditional customers such as newspapers, commercial printers, and advertisers.
Weyerhaeuser said one of the paper machines at its Dryden pulp and paper mill will close April 1, affecting 80 of the mill’s 795 employees.
Another 40 jobs will be cut in a processing part of the Dryden mill by next spring.
Meanwhile, the Prince Albert pulp and paper mill in Saskatchewan, which the company said in October it would shut down, will end paper production at the end of this month.
The pulp mill, which is being put up for sale, will continue operating until spring to minimize risk of damage caused by cold winter weather.
The Prince Albert mill employs 690 hourly and salaried workers, and has an annual capacity of 280,000 tonnes of uncoated paper and 130,000 tonnes of market pulp.
Weyerhaeuser could not comment on whether there were any interested buyers for that plant. But spokesman Bruce Amundson said the rest of the Dryden operations will remain intact.
“We still have a paper machine running there, and we’ll continue to. It’s just that we’re looking to, over the entire system, balance our production to meet demand,” he noted.
Amundson said the company will continue to review its assets and that future changes can be expected. But he wouldn’t comment on whether those changes include more job cuts.
“We expect there will be additional announcements in the future, but we can’t speculate on what those might be,” he remarked.
Also yesterday, Western Forest Products announced the closure of its pulp mill in Squamish, B.C. as of March 9, affecting 323 jobs.
The mill will continue production until the week of Jan. 23, after which time shutdown activities would commence, the company said in a release.
“Financial results from the pulp segment of our business have been unacceptable for many years,” said Reynold Hert, president and CEO.
After the Weyerhaeuser announcement, the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union issued a statement saying it is “horrified” by the planned shutdowns.
“To string our members along for more than two months and then slam them with this news 10 days before Christmas is simply unconscionable,” union vice-president Dave Coles said.
The union said it had been meeting with the company and with the Saskatchewan government to find a new operator for the Prince Albert mill, and was completely taken aback by the closure.
“We have broken production records as well as improved the quality of the papers over the past few months,” said Ron Rucks, president of the union’s Prince Albert local.
“These machines are world-class and profitable, and this announcement makes no sense at all.”