Update for Northern Pulp Unifor Members
Since Premier Stephen McNeil’s announcement on December 20, Unifor has met with company and government officials to determine next steps for workers at Northern Pulp, Local 440.
On January 2, Unifor met with government officials to discuss their plans for workers across the forestry sector. From Unifor, Executive Assistant to the National President Scott Doherty, Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil, National Representative Ian Hutchison, and Shelley Amyotte from Communications attended. They met with Acting Deputy Minister for Labour and Advanced Education Ava Czapalay and Deputy Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs Kelliann Dean.
Premier McNeil announced a $50 million transition fund for forestry workers that was of particular interest during the meeting, especially since the fund was never mentioned to the union, or anyone else, prior to his December 20 decision.
Government is in the early stages of planning and implementing the transition and is currently reaching out to different employers and industry groups to understand the scope of expected need as the January 31 closure of Northern Pulp approaches. Unifor leaders emphasized how important it was that the fund be used to assist workers directly and that any funds required for aiding an industry transition be taken from different government resources.
It was again made clear by the union that losing a key player like Northern Pulp in the tightly-interconnected forestry industry will cause unavoidable and permanent job loss. Finding new markets for pulp wood and chips would be costly, highly competitive and, in the end, not a workable solution to sustain Nova Scotia’s forestry sector. Without a market for pulp wood, Nova Scotia will have a harder time implementing the recommendations for a sustainable forestry sector outlined in the Lahey Report.
Your Unifor representatives made it clear that the best course of action for a viable and continued forest industry in the province is with Northern Pulp continuing to operate. We reiterated that the $50 million should be used to assist all workers in the industry through a temporary shutdown of the mill to facilitate the construction of Northern Pulp’s new effluent treatment facility (ETF).
We also suggested the idea of a third-party expert who could serve as intermediary between government regulators and the company to establish a firm and fair process and timelines for the necessary approvals to take place for construction of the ETF. Until now, the regulatory process has proved unpredictable and unclear to a company ready and willing to invest in Nova Scotia, its environment, and its workers.
Unifor remains committed to you as members of Local 440 and still sees the best possible outcome as one where you can remain in Nova Scotia and continue to earn a good family-supporting income doing what you love. The union also understands the scope of the impact of Northern Pulp’s closure on the 11,500 workers across the wider forestry sector and 30,000 private woodlot owners and wants to see government do all it can to prevent widespread job loss and financial hardship.
We expect feedback to our recommendations and questions within a week to ten days.
Discussions with Northern Pulp and parent company Paper Excellence are ongoing.
What Unifor members should know about Nothern Pulp
Unifor represents more than 200 workers at Northern Pulp as members of Unifor Local 440. This Kraft pulp mill supports thousands of families across the province as part of a network of intricately inter-dependent forestry jobs.
Click on the Take Action tab to sign our petition to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil calling on his government to provide leadership to bring the community together and facilitate the building of the new state-of-the-art effluent treatment facility.
To learn more about actions Northern Pulp has taken to build the new Effluent Treatment Facility, visit their project website.
What you should know about Northern Pulp
Northern Pulp, a Kraft pulp mill in Pictou, Nova Scotia, is the subject of heated debate that has made frequent local and even national news. Unifor Local 440 members at the mill are caught in the middle of this debate between the continued operation of the mill - their livelihoods - and a small but vocal group who are determined to see the mill close. Here is what Unifor members should know about the situation.
Unifor supports the closure of Boat Harbour
Boat Harbour is the tidal estuary where effluent from the mill is treated before it is released into the Northumberland Strait. Process water from the mill has been flowing through several kilometers of pipe to these lagoons and into the Strait since the 1960s. A problem then, and for decades since, is that Boat Harbour is on the Pictou Landing First Nation territory.
The people of Pictou Landing First Nation were given false and misleading information about the government and company’s plans and the eventual impact on their land and water. Unifor fully supports the current government’s decision to close Boat Harbour and Northern Pulp finding a new way to treat process water.
New owners, new environmental practices
Canadian environmental regulations in the forestry sector were first implemented in the early 1990s and have been improving continuously both as awareness of environmental issues has risen and as new technology has become available. Canada now has some of the strictest forestry sector environmental laws in the world.
Previous owners of the Pictou pulp mill did as many pulp and paper companies all over the world did for decades – used up resources and moved on. When the current owners, Paper Excellence, bought the mill in 2011, it was sorely in need of upgrades. Paper Excellence has invested more than $130 million since 2011 in new equipment and technology to upgrade the mill and improve its environmental footprint, including:
- replacing the precipitator, which removes particles from the steam, greatly improving air quality;
- changing from Bunker C fuel to natural gas;
- meeting strict new regulations on water usage from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment;
- and working diligently to plan a brand new $150 million on-site effluent treatment facility.
The company made plenty of mistakes by not developing a strong working relationship with the First Nations community, and by attempting to silence or ignore community debate and concerns about environmental impacts. Unifor raised these concerns and expects the company to fulfill their environmental and social responsibilities.
Opposition to a modern treatment facility
When the Nova Scotia government passed the Boat Harbour Act in 2015, giving the company until January 31, 2020 to find a new solution for its effluent, it seemed everyone was on board with the plan to respect First Nations’ rights and create a new legacy for the mill, mill workers and the community.
Northern Pulp has plans in place that are currently under review by the Nova Scotia government to build an on-site treatment facility, meaning no untreated water will leave the mill property, eliminating risk of pipe leaks.
As the deadline approaches for the closure of Boat Harbour, a local group has been calling for the mill to close. This group in Pictou remains strongly opposed despite the fact that pulp and paper mills across Canada and the United States use systems like that which Northern Pulp has planned and successfully coexist with their communities.
Thousands of jobs at risk
Unifor represents 240 of the 330 workers at Northern Pulp, but these jobs will not be the only ones lost if the mill is forced to close. This pulp mill purchases chips, wood waste and trees not suited for lumber from 11 sawmills across the province and those mills have stated they likely would not continue to operate if Northern Pulp shuts down, even temporarily.
A modest analysis of Northern Pulp’s economic impact cites that more than 11,000 jobs are at risk across the entire province if the mill closes. Most of these jobs are in rural areas of Nova Scotia where other jobs are not easily found or created.
Northern Pulp members need your support
Unifor is monitoring the company’s effluent treatment plant project closely and expects Northern Pulp to meet and exceed its environmental obligations and to uphold its commitments to Pictou Landing First Nation.
Now, the members of Local 440 need your support to stand up for their jobs and our vital and deeply inter-connected forestry sector in Nova Scotia. Forestry jobs are good-paying jobs and the industry will continue to provide good jobs for generations to come. Let’s be vocal about supporting a new legacy for Northern Pulp.
We can have good jobs, protect the environment and respect First Nations.
Economic Impacts of Northern Pulp Nova Scotia
Unifor submits letter to NS Department of Environment supporting Northern Pulp
The Nova Scotia Department of Environment sought public comment on the Environmental Assessment application filed by Northern Pulp until March 9, 2019. Unifor submitted our letter, supporting the process and urging government to find a solution that supports the Environment Act which outlines a set of principles for sustainable development that should guide its application, including:
"The linkage between economic and environmental issues, recognizing that long-term economic prosperity depends upon sound environmental management and that effective environmental protection depends on a strong economy."
Lana Payne interview on Sheldon MacLeod Show
Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne visits Todd Veinotte in for Sheldon MacLeod on NEWS 95.7 FM in Halifax to discuss the current situation with Northern Pulp and why political leadership is what is needed.
Unifor airs advertisement in Pictou region
Click here to listen to the 30-second spot Unifor aired in the Pictou region through the month of February.
Unifor statement: Province must take leadership in Northern Pulp situation
November 28, 2018
Unifor meets with NS Minister of Natural Resources
Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne, Executive Assistant to the President Scott Doherty and members of Unifor Local 440 from Northern Pulp travelled to Halifax for a meeting with Nova Scotia Minister of Natural Resources Iain Rankin.
November 14, 2018
Unifor is calling on Premier Stephen McNeil and his government to take a leadership role to resolve the growing tensions surrounding the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County.
The union is very concerned about the tense situation in the community, including the possibility of Northern Pulp closing the mill until an effluent treatment facility can be completed.
“This situation has gone on long enough. The tensions and divisions continue to grow and the Premier needs to play a leadership role here,” said Lana Payne, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director. “We expect him to step in, bring all parties together, and attempt to have a reasonable dialogue in hopes of finding a resolution.”
“We are also calling on the premier to protect and stand up for good jobs in the province, like those at the mill and the hundreds and hundreds of workers in communities around Nova Scotia who depend on this mill for their livelihoods,” said Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to the Unifor National President. “There is no reason we can’t protect the environment and have good jobs in the forest sector.”
There are numerous pulp and paper mills that operate safely and with environmentally sound effluent processing facilities in Canada along the coastline, including in British Columbia.
Unifor represents over 230 workers at the mill. These are good-paying jobs that help sustain the region. Many sawmills and their employees in the province also rely on the mill for their livelihoods. The economic impact of a closure would be devastating to hundreds of Pictou County families and would have a very negative impact on the Nova Scotian economy as a whole.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.