Unifor members working at the Fortress pulp mill in Thurso were stunned this week to learn of their employer’s decision to close down for three to four months.
“Obviously, this comes as a shock to everyone. But given the profitability issues facing the mill, we also understand that they can’t keep operating at a loss indefinitely,” commented Unifor Quebec Director Renaud Gagné. “Right now, our priority is to support our members in dealing with employment insurance. But we’re also holding out hope that the employer will be able to develop more promising markets in the middle and long term.”
The employer announced that the main reason for its decision to close the mill was the declining price for the pulp produced at the plant as well as its large product inventory. “It appears that this situation may be due to tensions with China. Given the circumstances, other markets need to be explored in order to ensure greater stability,” Gagné pointed out.
The mill employs more than 200 members of Unifor Local 894. The employer’s plans call for about 20 workers to remain on the job to ensure cogeneration activities, effluent treatment and heating of the mill.
The Quebec government has already announced $8 million in aid for the mill. “But we plan to keep a close eye on this situation to make sure that the governments use all means possible to make sure this mill, which is essential to the local community, remains in operation in the long run,” concluded Brother Gagné.