CEP Local 298



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CEP Local 298 Negotiation Update

May 16, 2003

Negotiations reconvened on Wednesday, May 14, 2003, day 7 of the 10-day notice. The Company started off by revisiting the issue of the mill's woeful economic situation. The Company had earlier stated that the mill had lost $11 million up to the end of March, that they lost another $11 million during the shutdown and extended start-up and that they had expected to lose somewhere between $20 million and $26 million. On Wednesday the Company restated their position claiming they were expecting a loss of $30 million to $40 million by the end of the year. The Company noted that market conditions, the Canadian dollar and severe acute respiratory syndrome - SARS, among others, were negatively affecting the viability of the mill. The tone of the meeting went downhill from that point. In the previous week Kent Elliot had made comments that the Union claimed were false statements. The Union demanded, and Mr. Elliot agreed to, provide proof of his statements. There were loud, emotional discussions when Elliot failed to provide the proof and by the end of the session there was a foul mood in the room.

On Thursday, the tone of the meeting was conciliatory. The Company said that they couldn't agree with the Union's positions and that it was clear the Union didn't agree with the Company's position. But, the Company said they wanted to discuss the Union's agenda items in an attempt to get a better understanding of the Union's position/concerns. Shiploading issues were discussed and there appeared to be a serious attempt to find common ground. Unknown to the Union, while we were discussing shiploading issues, the Company was violating existing shiploading language. The conciliatory tone of the day appeared to be a ruse.

On Friday the Union raised the concern about the violation of shiploading language that had occurred at the terminal on Thursday. After some discussion the Company said they would have to caucus on the issue before they could comment further on the situation. The Union insisted that this issue needed to be resolved before we could continue. The Union needed some assurance that the Company understood the current language in the contract and that it was prepared to correct the situation. The Union requested that the talks adjourn so that the Company could investigate the matter and get back to the Union. On reconvening the Company and Union were able to reach a resolve in this matter.

However, on another issue, the payment of Health and Welfare benefits during the strike, the Company presented the Union with their official position; that is, the Company was prepared to do what the Labour Relations Code mandated. The Code says that the Employer must continue the premium payments if the Union tenders the payment. The Company stated that the cost was about $190,000 per month and they were prepared to provide the Union with an accounting statement.

In the past the Union and Company have always been able to reach an agreement whereby during a strike, in exchange for token picketing, the Company would continue making the premium payments and the Union would reimburse them after the strike was settled. This time around there is a new procedure. The Company will no longer provide this benefit for its employees.

At the end of the session the Company commented that it didn't appreciate the (supposed) threats the Union had made regarding the Union exercising its full rights to picketing if there wasn't agreement regarding the benefit premium coverage. The Union demanded to see the Company minutes where the threats had been made; the Company refused. Once again Kent Elliot refused to provide evidence of claims he had made. All through the negotiations the Company has said it was very concerned with the welfare of all of its employees. However, when the Company had an opportunity to provide some assistance with the Health and Welfare coverage it turned its back on its valued employees and a "33-year tradition of cooperation in the face of a major labour dispute" and told the Union that those employees will have to look after themselves during the strike. And, to top off the session the Company claimed that the Union was making threats by simply stating that we would exercise our full legal rights to picketing. Even though, the Company had several times stated/threatened that it would have to shut down the mill if it agreed to the Union's agenda items like, "making pay cheque corrections by the end of the day they are discovered". In an obviously prearranged move, all the Company's delegates simultaneously closed their binders and nodded solemnly in agreement with their Kent Elliot. During the last Company caucus of the day it seems they were not discussing our sincere shiploading proposals in an attempt to get an agreement. It appears they were rehearsing a dramatic finale to their week's acting at negotiations.

In Solidarity

Negotiating Committee CEP 298