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.