Saturday, December 12, 2009

A lot has been happening with the lockout at Tembec in pine falls Manitoba since Molly last blogger on the matter. I've sort of fallen behind on reporting on all the news since the company announced that the plant was up for sale. I hope to do a much fuller article later. For now, however, here's a report filed yesterday by the CBC about the latest hat trick that Tembec is attempting to foist on its locked out workers.
Mill workers angry over severance request:

Locked-out workers at the paper mill in Pine Falls, Man., are appalled by the latest concession being requested by the company, Tembec Inc.

The Montreal-based company has told the United Steelworkers union, which represents about 250 locked-out employees, that it will end the lockout if the workers wait for a period of 50 weeks before getting severance pay.

'There was some pretty colourful responses that I can't repeat on [the news]. I'd be bleeped out.'—Cam Sokoloski, United Steelworkers local president.

Cam Sokoloski, union local president, said the members haven't taken kindly to that news.
"There was some pretty colourful responses that I can't repeat on [the news]. I'd be bleeped out," he said. "Not one union member is saying this is a good thing."

Waiting that long for severance to be paid out would make it much less likely anyone would get any money at all because the industry is in turmoil and Tembec is trying to sell the Pine Falls mill, Sokoloski said.

If everyone is laid off, the severance could run as high as $10 million, he noted.

"They're basically just holding onto that money for a year and who knows if Tembec goes bankrupt or they do sell us to somebody else, well there will be no severance, right, because we'll all be back working."

The mill, about 130 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, has been idle since Sept. 1. It is the biggest employer in the community.

Contract talks between the union and the company began Aug. 13, but the two sides were unable to reach a deal. Although they continued talking after the lockout, negotiations definitively halted in October.

On Tuesday, Tembec officials announced they have decided to sell the mill rather than reopen it. If a buyer isn't found, the mill could be closed for good.

Tembec is trying to end the labour dispute to clear the way for the sale, the company said.
Molly Notes:
I think that both the union and the company are speaking the truth here. On the company's part, well yeah, " they are "trying to end the labour dispute to clear the way for the sale". It's pretty obvious that it would have to be a very ill informed private company that would be willing to make an offer under the present conditions. What is astonishing is that they have the arrogance to expect the workers to bite at this bait. Yes, if Tembec goes bankrupt in the intervening months or if they manage to find a buyer the deferred severance pay (to at least some extent required by law) becomes smoke. Nice trick if you can pull it off. To my mind the only way that anyone could bite at this would be if the severance pay were to be put now into a GIC type account in the name of the workers to whom it is owed, with any interest (small as it might be) accumulating to the fund rather than to the company. In the absence of this Tembec is left with millions of dollars to play with and gain profit and a liability that may end up being written off. But...more on the Tembec lockout in a future post.

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