The announcement made by Premier François Legault on Monday ordering all businesses to close by midnight on Tuesday raised several questions regarding the undesirable consequences this situation could have on several industries.
“When we questioned the Premier after his announcement, the list of exceptions to the shutdown order had not yet been made public. Moreover, the initial version of this list did not include the pulp and paper sector, which was only added later in the evening,” explained Renaud Gagné, Unifor’s Quebec director.
This caused concern within the union about the impact of this announcement on the pulp and paper and aluminum industries. “We couldn’t understand why several plants that produce goods used in the food manufacturing chain (packaging), or commodities such as tissue paper or even the pharmaceutical industry weren’t excluded,” he added.
These concerns included the following companies:
- The Rayonier plant in Témiscamingue, which produces cellulose pulp used in the manufacture of medications;
- Westrock (with plants in La Tuque and Montreal), which produces cardboard used in milk packaging, among other products;
- The Resolute mill in Saint-Félicien, which produces the kraft pulp used to make all tissue papers, toilet paper, diapers, etc., and that notably serves the needs of hospitals;
- All the paperboard plants that make packaging for the food industry, including Kruger, Cascades, Mitchel-Lincoln, etc.;
- Toundra Greenhouse (production of cucumbers) which is located adjacent to the Resolute mill in Saint-Félicien and whose heating needs are met using steam from the pulp mill.
“But now that the pulp and paper sector has been added to the list, things are clearer. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that several plants in this sector whose production does not serve the needs of essential industries will be closed. Others will shut down due to surplus inventory. And those that do remain open will be operating at minimum capacity,” Gagné pointed out.
Aluminum smelters have also been placed on the list of exceptions to the order to close, but they will also have to operate at a reduced capacity. An exception has also been granted to some plants in the aerospace industry, as well as to the media and telecommunications sectors, among others.
Unifor also used the occasion to raise issues related to accessing payments under the assistance programs put in place by the governments. In the face of the hundreds of thousands of requests for aid flooding the different services, governments will need to think seriously about implementing additional mechanisms in order to make sure that no one has to go without resources over a period of several weeks.