[CORNER BROOK, NL] — The president of the local board of trade wonders if, and hopes, Kruger is grandstanding with its latest position on the mill’s future viability.
Following the rejection of the relief measures of the pension plan sought by the company last week, Kruger stated it was reassessing the viability of its Corner Brook operation. Keith Goulding said he has heard it before.
“It seems like this comes up every now and again, reassessing the long term viability of the mill,” he said. “I wonder sometimes if it can be a bit of grandstanding or positioning/posturing getting ready for negotiations. I hope it is that, but as it starts to ramp up, and you start to hear it more frequently, you start to wonder if it is not in the long term vision of Kruger. You are left with that uncertainity.”
The president of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade believes the local operation has a sustainable future, but he said all parties must be willing to do what it takes. He did not consider the debate over the pension plan payment extension to be a vital issue for the mill’s future, that he thought it would be resolved through negotiations. It is something he thinks can still happen.
Goulding said the mill is important to the economy of this area not just for the direct employers, but the logging industry, the contractors and sub-contractors, and the industrial suppliers. However, he does not believe it is the be all and end all of the local economy.
“The long-term viability of Corner Brook is key on its diversity, so I think Corner Brook is well positioned,” he said. “That mill and its operations, and its long term viability, is there.”
Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley is urging the players to get back to negotiations. He also believes this issue can be resolved.
“I strongly urge both parties to sit down and talk facts, as opposed to what appeared to be last week some misinformation or misunderstanding of information that was put out there,” he said. “In these troubled times economically we certainly need people discussing facts and making decisions with their heads, that are in the best interest of the mill and the workers and the city.”
The mayor does not want to have to go through what fellow Newfoundland municipalities Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor had to. He also said mills are closing throughout the country, and acknowledged the difficult circumstances facing the industry.
“There is no magic bullet out there that is going to save the pulp and paper industry,” he said. “I think everybody needs to realize we are going through some tough times right now, and everybody has to bear a part of that.
“The provincial government is involved, Kruger head office is involved, and the union workers are involved. They have all invested heavily into Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, but it is going to take a bit more to get the mill to remain viable. Hopefully they can get there.”