Unifor National President Jerry Dias and Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne continued the union’s campaign to defend good jobs at the Northern Pulp mill and throughout the Nova Scotia forestry sector during a meeting with the Premier Stephen McNeil this week.
Dias and Payne were joined by Unifor Local 440 leaders Don MacKenzie and Wanda Skinner as well as Scott Doherty, Assistant to the National President, and Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Area Director.
“We want to make sure there is a clear understanding of what is at stake here,” said Dias. “In addition to 240 Unifor members who work at the pulp mill, thousands of other workers in forestry and related sectors depend on the economic footprint generated by the mill.”
Later the same day, a union delegation met with PC Leader Tim Houston and Pictou area MLAs.
“We stressed the need for a common-sense solution that respects all stakeholder needs for this serious situation and we urged politicians to move forward in a way that brings people together,” said Scott Doherty.
At issue is the construction of a new effluent treatment plant and meeting a legislated deadline of January 31, 2020 around the use of Boat Harbour, which is where the mill effluent is currently treated. The mill is now in the middle of an environmental assessment with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment for the new treatment plant and must provide additional information and perform more studies as requested by the Department. The company must receive approval on their environmental assessment before construction can begin.
At both meetings, there was an understanding of the tensions in Pictou County and appreciation for the considerable impact the jobs at Northern Pulp have on the Nova Scotian economy.
MacKenzie and Skinner, both long-time workers at the mill, detailed the worry and stress felt by workers and their families. They also expressed concern over the deep divisions in their community.
“This sector is critical to the economy of rural Nova Scotia and we expect the company to pull out all the stops to make sure it provides the additional studies and clarifications as quickly as possible,” said Payne.
The union noted in its meetings that a solution is possible: one that protects the environment and good jobs and respects First Nations.