Tembec Workers Reject Provincial Arbitration Offer

By: E&P Staff

Employees locked out of newsprint maker Tembec’s Pine Falls, Manitoba, mill more than three months ago have rejected the province’s offer of binding arbitration.

Bruce Owen reports in today’s Winnipeg Free Press that many of the 270 workers showed up at the provincial legislative building on Wednesday to urge the government to pressure the company for its actions’ effect on the town, where it is the largest employer.

Workers rejected in August a company proposal that their union claimed would require wage and benefits concessions amounting to 35%. Government mediation in the first weeks of the strike failed.

Manitoba’s Labour Relations Act allows either side to request binding arbitration after 60 days of a strike or lock-out. A workers’ spokesman told Owen they wish to avoid arbitration because it risks changes to an employee-pension agreement that expires in 2013 and which could affect the 87% of the workers expected to retire within 10 years.

A legislator had invited workers to the building, where they met with the provincial labor minister and premier, who said he will seek legislation that better protects pensions in the future.

Posting a second-quarter loss of $38 million (Canadian), Tembec has sought to cut labor costs in the face of falling demand for newsprint in the North America. Its Pine Falls mill has capacity to supply 180,000 metric tons of newsprint per year.

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