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Executive Council
Innovation, Trade and Rural Development
May 19, 2009

Protecting Workers: Premier Announces Financial Support to Former AbitibiBowater Workers

The Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, today announced the Provincial Government will provide financial benefits for workers displaced by the closure of the AbitibiBowater Mill in Central Newfoundland. Benefits to be provided will include severance for mill workers (unionized and non-unionized), silviculturists and loggers, and certain entitlements under the Work Force Reduction Program and Early Retirement Allowance program.

Joining Premier Williams at today’s announcement were the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources; the Honourable Shawn Skinner, Minister of Innovation Trade and Rural Development; the Honourable Susan Sullivan, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment; along with Ray Hunter, MHA for Grand Falls-Windsor-Sprindale-Green Bay, and Clayton Forsey, MHA for Exploits.

"As a government, we have been determined to ensure that workers impacted by the closure of this mill are protected to the greatest extent possible," said Premier Williams. "Many of these individuals have given a lifetime of service to AbitibiBowater and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in the face of this closure. Unfortunately, that has not been the case to-date by the company. Working in the best interests of the people of the province, in December of last year our government repatriated certain assets related to this mill as a result of the company having broken their contract to operate in this province. It is now only appropriate and fair that the workers are not left behind and disadvantaged by Abitibi’s decision to close this operation."

"Given the unique circumstances of government having expropriated related assets, it is now proper and right that workers receive benefits from this repatriation particularly in the face of the company’s inaction," added Premier Williams. "So beginning today, we will enter into discussions with union representatives to facilitate the allocation of severances and other financial allowances to the former mill workers and we will determine an appropriate and fair severance for loggers and silviculturists. This is the right thing to do, and our government is proud to support these workers who have given their lives to supporting an important industry in this province."

The Provincial Government will work with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers’ (CEP) union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to ensure funds are dispersed as quickly as possible. To that end, the province will provide support to the unions enabling them to make payment to workers for severance and allowances suspended as a result of AbitibiBowater’s creditor protection. Upon conclusion of AbitibiBowater’s court proceedings, any disbursement of payments to the union will be repaid to the Provincial Government.

"AbitibiBowater’s financial position has left many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians feeling particularly vulnerable," said Minister Skinner who is the Chair of the Ministerial Task Force established to respond to the mill’s closure. "It also created a unique situation and one that required a unique solution. The Provincial Government’s support to the workers reflects our commitment to the Central Region and is a key step in its revitalization. Our task force has done a tremendous amount of work to-date in collaboration with the impacted communities. We will continue in this spirit of cooperation, as we work to see the revitalization of the Central Region."

 

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Media contacts:

Elizabeth Matthews
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
709-729-3960
elizabethmatthews@gov.nl.ca
Roger Scaplen
Press Secretary
Office of the Premier
709-729-4304, 727-0991
rogerscaplen@gov.nl.ca
Scott Barfoot
Director of Communications
Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural
Development
709-729-4570, 690-6290
scottbarfoot@gov.nl.ca 
 

 

BACKGROUNDER

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s commitment to enable the CEP and IBEW to provide earned severance and other allowances to those impacted by AbitibiBowater’s creditor protection builds-upon other investments and other action directed at revitalizing the Central Region.

Investments

In addition to the annual $175 million to $200 million that the Provincial Government invests in everything from health care to education to road maintenance, in 2009-10 spending has been increased to include:

  • In excess of $35 million on infrastructure projects, including millions for the Trans-Canada Highway within the region and $5.4 million for municipal-year capital works;
  • More than $5 million for repairs and renovations of health care facilities plus $4.6 million to improve the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre;
  • $2.3 million for forest and agricultural resource road construction;
  • $1.6 million for maintenance and improvements of Newfoundland Labrador Housing units;
  • $3.4 million to support the construction of an aquaculture facility in St. Albans;
  • A half million dollars for upgrades to the College of the North Atlantic in Grand Falls-Windsor;
  • $445,000 is allocated for repairs and renovations of school facilities; and,
  • $5 million from the Federal Government’s Community Development Trust has been allocated to the Central Region for investment in economic development initiatives.
  • Other

  • As part of the Provincial Government’s $800 million infrastructure investment, a residential treatment centre for youth with addictions will be established in Grand Falls-Windsor;
  • The relocation of the administration office for the Home Heating Rebate program and the Parental Benefits Program to Central region; and,
  • Commitment to offset the loss of tax revenue due to the close of the AbitibiBowater mill in the communities of Grand Falls-Windsor, Bishop’s Falls, Botwood, Buchans and Terra Nova.
  • Human Resources

  • Through the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment considerable emphasis has been placed on the development and implementation of a strategy for workers as they transition to new career opportunities and stages in their lives. To complement the resources through career work centres, support staff has been mobilized to deliver one-on-one counseling and services.
  • Economic Development

  • A Community Development Committee has been established to develop and implement strategies to help advance short- and long-term sector and project opportunities in the Central Region. The 15-person committee encompasses a wide range of community and business interests.
  • Additionally, steps have been taken to secure sustainable business development opportunities that will strengthen and diversify the region’s economy. In consultation with on the ground stakeholders, sectors considered for development include knowledge-based services, information and communications services, tourism, valued added production, and support services enterprises to emerging sectors in the Central Region.
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    2009 05 19                                                      10:40 a.m.
     


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