Abitibi to suspend production at several plants


75 workers
affected here

AbitibiBowater announced yesterday it will be idling the #6 paper machine here indefinitely and cutting jobs as part of its newest round of corporate streamlining, which will see production suspended at several Canadian and U.S. mills.
Local mill manager John Harrison said this morning that #6, which first was idled back on March 1 due to poor market conditions, will go down again by the end of October.
After a short trial run this summer, it had restarted Sept. 8 to fill a recent order of glossy grade paper.
Harrison said 75 workers in all will be affected, but clarified “most of the 75 people already have been impacted.”
“It’s the machine crew, some tradespeople—we’ve reduced the size of our trades crew,” he noted.
“You know that we did a reduction of our staff back in May. And we’re looking at about 20 more people through the rest of the operation.
“About 55 of the 75 have already happened,” Harrison explained, adding these 20 more job cuts will take place by Oct. 31.
A story by The Canadian Press said the cuts, which take effect Oct. 31, reflect the insolvent newsprint giant’s restructuring efforts under the bankruptcy protection laws in Canada and the United States.
The Montreal-based company’s Canadian union called the cuts at six Canadian mills “disasters of historical proportions for communities that have been a mainstay of the Canadian forest industry.”
The indefinite closures at three Canadian mills and paper machine closures at four others, including one in the U.S., affect more than 1,500 Canadian workers, said Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.
While 1,500 workers are affected by the changes, not all of them will lose their jobs.
Coles said the closures were preventable, and that union members were “angry with the company and cynical about their governments.”
“The Canadian government had only to put in place a program of loan guarantees for forest companies forced into CCAA protection because of the credit crisis,” he said in a release late yesterday.
“But clearly, when it comes to our forest industry, nothing is too large to fail, and no economic disaster is too large for government to ignore,” Coles charged.
In addition to the #6 paper machine being idled here, the company will completely shut down operations at a digital printing paper plant in Beaupre, Que., leaving 340 workers without jobs.
The company also will shut one of two newsprint machines in Clermont, Que. and lay off another 120 workers.
In Brooklyn, N.S., the company announced it will cut production in half at its newsprint plant, meaning 300 employees will work reduced hours.
And in Coosa Pines, Ala., the company will interrupt production and lay off 85 people.
“It’s related to lessening demand,” Pierre Choquette, a spokesman for the forestry company, said of the cuts.
“We’re talking about a 30 percent drop in demand in newsprint since the beginning of the year, and for digital printing, like in Beaupre, we’re talking 20 percent.”
Choquette added it’s unclear when operations would resume at the installations.
AbitibiBowater has been restructuring since April and the company had said weeks ago that suspension of activities was likely.
Like many forestry companies, AbitibiBowater has been hit hard by the slump in the North American advertising industry during the recession, which has cut the size of newspapers and magazines and reduced demand for newsprint.
It also was squeezed by a huge debt load, which made it difficult to operate profitably in a tough business environment.
—With files from
The Canadian Press