Thursday, March 25, 2010


Since last Monday laid off workers at the AbitibiBowater plant in Beaupré Québec began a blockade of the mill that they say they will maintain until they get severance pay due to them. the blockade prevents the company from removing equipment and materials from the plant. The blockade is still on. Here`s the story from the CBC.
Abitibi workers to maintain blockade
The 300 hundred employees of the AbitibiBowater paper mill in Beaupré say they will maintain a blockade at the plant, north of Quebec City, until they get their severance pay.

The workers, who said they are owed a total of $12 million, set up a trailer blocking the road leading into the mill on Monday.

The severance pay is required according to the workers collective agreement, said union local president Mario Leclerc.

The workers are owed between $40,000 to $60,000 each, said Leclerc.

The company cannot afford to make the payments, because it is under bankruptcy protection, said AbitibiBowater spokesman Pierre Choquette.

Each worker must file a request for compensation through the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, he said.

"Already a package has been sent to them with forms, and all of these forms have to be completed by each of the employees, with the amount according to their personal situation," said Choquette.

The deadline for the forms to be submitted is April 7, he said.

Leclerc, however, said the workers have already submitted their claims.

The barricade will stay put until the workers are offered the full amount of their severance packages, he said.
Agreement with union
AbitibiBowater announced plans to shut down its Beaupré plant and to suspend operations at three other Canadian plants in September.

The company blamed the move on a worldwide drop in demand for all types of paper.

Earlier this month, AbitibiBowater reached a tentative deal with its union that could allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

The agreement, which includes concessions from workers, is currently going through the ratification process. Pension regulators in Quebec and Ontario must also give their nod.

The company has been operating under creditor protection in both Canada and the United States for almost a year. It filed to restructure after struggling amid slumping newsprint demand and debts approaching $5 billion.

Here's some relevant comment translated from the french at the Voix De Faits blog in Québec City.

Factory Blockade In Beaupré
According to regional media, hundreds of AbitibiBowwater workers have been blockading the entrance to the Beaupré plant since 6am this morning. The blockade is to prevent the company from leaving with the factory's equipment. The most recent report said that about twenty persons were still on the scene in the evening. Constant vigilance is maintained on the premises.

The factory is closed but the company still owes money to its former employees ($ 12 million in various bonuses!). As AbitibiBowater was placed under the protection of the Creditors Arrangement , the only guarantee that people have of the region to be paid one day is to prevent the dismantling of the machines. That is their ultimate balance of power.

The gesture is described by the symbolic local union president. It is indeed, however, direct action. Such blockades - sometimes embellished with threatening to destroy the material - have brought results around the world (from France to Ontario). Maybe it's not "legal" but it's perfectly legitimate! Don't let any piece go.

There's videos on the site of the LCN and Radio-Canada (The Sun also did a story on the subject).

Note that the resumption of the plant under capitalist control is very unlikely (but not for lack of trying, including a revitalization committee supported by local elites!). Strangely (!), Nobody seems to have thought about a relaunch under workers' control, as in Argentina, at least until the payment of sums due. An idea to consider?

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