Domtar workers to vote on package

The plan, which includes a severance package, is designed to minimize layoffs as pulp mill scales down

A transition plan for Domtar workers facing layoffs will go to a vote by 300 union members on Thursday.

"We've put forward a proposed offer with respect to an adjustment plan," said Bonny Skene, spokeswoman for the corporation. "The intent of the plan is to try to minimize the impact on employees."

Dictated by the B.C. Labour Relations Code, the plan applies to workers who are part of a collective agreement with workers signed last October before Domtar announced in December that it planned to shut down its A-line pulp machine.

Of the 125 mill workers affected by the layoffs, 107 are members of Local 10B of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

Doug Cumming, interim union president, remained tight-lipped on Tuesday. He said results of the vote are expected sometime Thursday evening.

The plan, which includes a severance package, is intended to cover the transition period as the Kamloops pulp mill scales down to a single line, he said.

Neither Skene nor Cumming would elaborate. The company and union have been negotiating on a daily basis.

Typically, adjustment plans include amendments to collective agreements - hence, all members have a vote - provisions for counselling and retraining; pension and retirement benefit entitlements; notice of termination; severance; and a bipartite process to oversee implementation.

Once ratified, the plan is treated as though it were part of the collective agreement.

Coincidentally, Domtar Corp. releases its fourth-quarter and year-end results on Friday in Montreal. Skene cautioned, though, that the company's decision to close its A-line in Kamloops is not related to the corporation's financial status or industry conditions but rather to conditions specific to the operation.

The A-line machine produces about 120,000 air-dried tonnes of sawdust softwood pulp annually.

"You have to keep in mind that the A-line is sawdust pulp and it provides a product to a number of markets," she said. "The cost situation is quite difficult and you can't generalize about the entire pulp sector."

The mill's B-line pulp machine, which produces 350,000 tonnes of softwood kraft pulp annually and employs 300 workers, will continue operating.

Skene said she wasn't sure about opportunities for displaced workers to find opportunities elsewhere in company operations. Domtar has a routinely posts vacancies within the corporation, but these are for salaried positions, she said.

A recent labour market report indicates that the Canadian pulp and paper sector will have to fill 120,000 positions over the next decade.

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