Workers at AbitibiBowater pulp and paper mills in Eastern Canada have voted 63.5 percent 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 Quebec and Ontario,” he warned.
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 percent employer contributions for future service.
The agreement also includes a 10 percent wage reduction, with wage increases resuming in 2012 and 2013.
“This agreement is not the product of free collective bargaining,” stressed 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,” he remarked.
“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,” Coles added.
The agreement covers about 3,000 CEP members in 18 local unions, including here in Fort Frances.
In related news, CEP members from all pulp and paper mills in Eastern Canada will meet in Montreal this Friday to determine the union’s strategy for pattern bargaining with the rest of the industry.