Elk Falls Workers

Campbell River B.C.

$80/Ton – No Longer The Mantra…

On June 22nd Locals 630/1123 went to Catalyst’s Richmond headquarters and gave a joint $80/ton presentation to members of the Company’s “Executive Team”.  Few questions were asked and no clarifications were sought, the Company simply thanked us for the presentation, then assured us they would take a thorough look at it and respond in a timely manner. Everything seemed quite cordial.

Then yesterday (July 2), Catalyst executive members Steve Boniferro, and Brian Johnston were in town to give us the Company’s response.

Steve B. started the meeting by stating there was a huge gap between what we proposed, and what the Company thinks it needs to have in order to restart Elk Falls.  “Miles apart” is how he phrased it.

We asked if our proposal met what they viewed as an $80/ton plan? – “No” Steve fired back, “we’re not convinced, because your proposal had staffing levels below what we thought we need to run the mill”. (perhaps they should have asked how we got our numbers ! )

Hoping to get a more favourable response, we asked:  Was our proposal not equivalent or better than what was achieved at the other mill sites?

“Your proposal was the same as the other sites, with exceptions.” Brian Johnston answered, later clarifying  that by exceptions he meant  “where you had offered things we hadn’t seen at the other sites.”  They said they weren’t criticizing our presentation, in fact , it may be the perfect starting point for discussions we need to have on what it will take to restart the mill.

When we prodded more about the $80/ton, and how we could get a proposal that could see the restart of our mill.  Brian Johnston tried to answer, then blurted out that $80/Ton was  stupid and that he wished he’d never heard of it.

Steve Boniferro chipped in,  “You know, you’re paid more than the Auto workers are now,” what we really need to focus in on is getting our Labour cost per hour down.

We asked several times for them to tell us “Exactly what they want”.   They couldn’t.

We asked if it was similar to the proposal they gave to the PPWC at Crofton last week. ( see note at bottom of this post ) They indicated that was the kind of agreement they think they need to be profitable in the long term.

Clearly the goalposts have moved again.  $80/Ton was about keeping the machines running at the same productivity levels, but with far fewer people. Now that they have $80/ton plans in place that map out how to reduce the workforces at each of the sites (including ours, since ours is a workable plan), they want to focus on reducing  labour cost/hr which will be about stripping away wages and benefits from the few workers that will be left behind.

Since the focus has changed away from $80/Ton, to something completely different, we will meet with the rest of the 1123 Executive, discuss our options and have a full report for you at the next General Meeting.


Note: Last week Catalyst dropped a document on PPWC Local 2, outlining what contractual changes they wanted in order to restart 1 line of the Kraft mill at Crofton.  Without reprinting the whole document, I think it would be fair to say you could open your collective agreement to any page, and if that page contained any costs to the Employer, they wanted changes or better yet, complete removal of the page.
I’ll give a few examples:

  • A 10 year Agreement, with wages rolled back 10% and then frozen for at least the 1st 5 years,
  • Employer pension contributions decrease by 3%, Employee contribution goes up 3%,
  • All benefit premiums split 50/50 between employee/employer (with the exception of those that you already pay more for, they stay the same)
  • Elimination of Bridging & Retiree benefits for new retirees,
  • Elimination of Call Time, Shift Diff, Sunday Premium, Sup Vacation, and 12 hour floaters (back to 8’s)
  • Reduce severance levels to 26 for job elimination and 30 weeks for mill closure,

The document includes a lot more than what’s on this list. Seems a general gutting of the Collective Agreement is apparently all they want,… For Now…

July 3, 2009 - Posted by | - $80 Ton Updates, General


  1. By the looks of the 2nd quarter news, we are out for the fall.
    Good luck guys in the new job world. We will make it without King Richard.

    Comment by Roger | July 30, 2009 | Reply

  2. So when will the game end ? A decade or more ago, Domtar was buying up mills and then shutting down the high cost producers, then severing off those people. Unfortunately there are already some mills in the east that avoid paying out severances by skirting the line of the law. That is, they wait until they would be obligated to pay out the severance then start back up, run for a predetermined amount of time and then shutdown again, just to restart the severance timer. With Catalyst in the financial situation that they claim they are, I would predict that this may well be our future folks.

    Comment by Gerard | July 23, 2009 | Reply

  3. What do they want? Are they talking about contracting out the maintance? You still need the same number of people to run the machines.

    Comment by Blair Hunter | July 22, 2009 | Reply

    • What do they want? Seems easy to me. They want more profit for their investment dollars. I can tell you wnat I feel they don’t want. They really don’t want to run this mill. And they really don’t want to give us our severance. I feel this is what we have to work with, and as such we as individuals and as a union should try and get what we want. And from many I’ve spoken with that is a contractual severance. How do we get this? Im thinking dont just post our thoughts here, post them to our Govt representatives too, make noise, be heard.

      Comment by Brian | July 30, 2009 | Reply

  4. I would like to begin by stating that these are my personal opinions and in no way represent the executive.

    Do I believe we will start up? Yes, if for no other reason, the company doesn’t want to spend the 24 million to sever us off. Do I believe that there will be some concessions? Yes. We have already proposed changes in our $80/ton plan (more than the other mills) that give the company substantial savings. There is no need to gut our main wage agreement. Do I believe some members are hoping that the mill does not start? Yes, I do.

    A lot of people are making issue of the fact the company is looking to change the severance as a sign that we are done. People have to realize that this document has not even come to us yet, this is what was proposed at Crofton (which is running). This is something they will try to ram down the throat of all the locals.

    What this is, is a clear attack on pattern bargaining. Bonnifero has made it clear that he does not like pattern bargaining and as with the auto workers, will do anything to break it. What all the Catalyst locals have to realize is, that we are dealing with a company that has no issue with engaging in immoral, if not borderline illegal acts. People have made comment that the company is not bargaining in good faith. I have to agree, in my opinion Catalyst signed a contract that they never intended to honour, and personally I’m sick and tired of playing fair with a company that doesn’t. Since people are prone to quotes on this blog, I thought I would throw out a few that express my feelings and frustration. Sean Connery in the Untouchables, “You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way!” and Neil Young ” It’s better to burn out, then to fade away.”

    Comment by Josko | July 12, 2009 | Reply

  5. It is a very real possibility that severance is all we can hope for in this situation. To renegotiate our contract and probably put one of our brother mills down until they accepted less than us is not a viable option. Quite realistically they would not even attempt to start elk. I feel your pain Gerard but this mill is a non starter ..move on man. For those of us who need new job skills, there is training available, make plans, and enjoy your new careers.

    Comment by wayne hammel | July 11, 2009 | Reply

  6. One would have to wonder, why does Catalyst need to slash severance if it intends to run the mill? Slashing severance saves them nothing, unless of course they shut down the mill. Right now we have our product (newsprint) and high cost cogen steam working against us. If we add low severance to the mix I think we can be assured of a permanent shut down. I think that Garneau doesn’t value us because he doesn’t need us. I’m sure the majority want the mill to run, but should we bet our severance that Vancouver wants it to run also? I think we should all take Larry’s good advise.

    Comment by Gerry Boyle | July 10, 2009 | Reply

  7. Greetings Sisters and Bretheren all! Thanks to all the executive and Union members who have worked tirelessly through these troubled times! THANK-YOU!
    I would like to take the time to encourage those of you who are wondering about NIEFS or training in any direction you may choose? Go for it!!! It’s federal money. All you have to do is choose a path, Prepare a plan, sign up, show up, and show the professionalism of which you have been doing for years! DON’T sell yourselves short!!! Trust me there are Big Company’s out there that cannot believe that “Dick Garneau” would let Highly trained employee’s slip away? If nothing else it will keep one busy and not dwelling on what the axis of evil is doing! Compy I loved your input and totally agree!!! Speaking from experience use the tools at hand! Barry at NIEFS is my contact (He has been through this himself) Be proactive not reactive! I read above where Gerard quoted Cicero with “those who tend to forget the past are doomed to repeat it” Very true, But my point here is to use your time and resources that you have at hand while receiving E/I, Get busy!
    While on a recent tour to an oil patch SAG-D plant I read something in a out-house that I have read before? My eyes are red, My pockets are green, so FAH_Q Richard Garneau, and your paper machines! Best Regards! Take Care!

    Comment by Larry Lagos | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  8. Back in the late 1980’s and then into the 90’s Stelco in Hamilton had close to ten thousand unionized employees. As they down sized with the aging demographic of the work force they negotiated settlement after settlement that benefitted retirees to the detriment of those left behind. Much the same has happened at Port Alberni and similarly in Powell River. It’s not pitting one against the other, it’s a fact. Remember the saying “those that don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them”. It would appear that some seem to be wishing that the mill doesn’t reopen so that they may cash out. It is however the mandate of a union to keep the doors open.

    Comment by Gerard | July 9, 2009 | Reply

    • The mandate of the union is to protect workers and their rights within a negotiated contract not to keep doors open at any cost. This management team seems to think they can bully their way through any situation . It is time for us to stand up and say as eloquently as Albert Finney did in the movie Network WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE! This isn’t the industrial revolution where we are slaves at the companies beck and call. I realize that a lot of people have commitments to honor but to gut our contract and especially our negotiated severance clause would be insane

      Comment by Gord Hartley | July 9, 2009 | Reply

  9. What a perfect ploy!
    Let’s pit the people that aren’t close to retirement against the people who are. Nothing like splitting the union from the inside out and they don’t even have to promise to start up the Elk Falls mill again.

    Comment by Another Mill Wife | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  10. The time has come for the unions, all of them, to tell the grand pooh ba pepe’la pue, lipservice lynn, bonehead boniferro and the rest of the looney toon show to F:… off. No more meetings of any kind. We have a collective agreement, so stick to it. IT’S WHAT WE VOTED FOR.


    Comment by compy | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  11. It’s time to move on. There is no sence gutting our contract in the faint hope of operating the mill. Third Ave. I mean Catalyst Paper needs us to open our just signed contract. Then they can force the other CEP locals to set the bar even lower or shut them down. It’s a race to the botton that must be stopped. Maybe union decertification is the true goal. 😦

    Comment by Barry Kerr | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  12. There undoubtedly is going to be differing opinions as to what direction we should proceed with as a local. Many of the older long serving members of the company feel ripped off (if you will), that when it was their turn for the $75,000 buyouts or the government buyout the tap was turned off or down to a trickle. That being said many of those members would quite like a severance payout to ease them into retirement. However, many of us are younger and have many more years to go before we can even consider retirement. So I expect that will be reflected in any debate that takes place.
    A little history here, when I was employed in Crofton following the 9 1/2 month strike the union petitioned the company to “release the hostages” and provide the packages to those who qualified regardless of any criteria. Many of these stalwart union brothers who begged to be released were back in the mill the following week as gate hires. This drove a very large rift between members who had worked side by side for years. Is that the example we wish follow?

    Comment by Gerard | July 7, 2009 | Reply

    • Yes gate hires is the root of all evil. The mills love it no LOA nothing if you come from out of town. No health and wealth fare. The unions try to tell use it is not contacting out but it is. Yes they under cut the building trades.

      Comment by no gate hires | July 7, 2009 | Reply

      • A good friend of mine has a brother that is a high ranking hatchet man on the paper side at the mill. He has already been told that they are planning on permanently shutting down Elk and has been asked to re-locate to Alberni. This is more than a rumour as it came from his mouth to my friends ears! Don’t touch our present contract and severance agreement is my advice!

        Comment by Todd Harrison | July 7, 2009

  13. This is BARGAINING IN BAD FAITH by continuing to move the goalposts!

    There appears to be NO INTENTION by this management to find any resolve to starting this mill without completely gutting our contract. I guess if we agreed to work for free they might consider talking about starting up.
    Therefore we should insist that they follow the existing contract (that they signed) and if this is unpalatable; shut the mill permanently and pay out our negotiated severance.
    Stop playing this game as there is no acceptable position for the company, that the local can take

    Comment by Rick Dinney | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  14. It would appear as though the company is planning on shutting us down permanently. That seems to be the main reason to gut the severance and get rid of the bridging. That way they could save a lot of money when they keep us down instead of trying to start us up!!!

    Comment by Tom Newman | July 6, 2009 | Reply

  15. In my opionion if you give up any severance and they don’t restart the mill you just signed away your money.

    Comment by a mill worker's wife | July 6, 2009 | Reply

  16. Much of what is being proposed would bring us inline with the mills back east. (They never had BOT, or Supplemental Vacation or 10 hour Vacation Bonus’ etc). Having worked in those mills (4) three unionized and one not, what Catalyst is seeking is to level the playing field. Having read what they have proposed to Crofton they are taking the extreme position. Are they willing to meet somewhere in the middle? We will hopefully soon find out. All companies are capitalizing on this economic downturn to renegotiate anything they can. It is no surprise that Catalyst is doing the same. With all the mills that have been closed down permanently in Canada in the last 10 or so years we had to know it was only a matter of time before we were targetted. In the end a proposal will have to be voted on, and we will decide as individuals whether or not we can live with it or are prepared to uproot and start again somewhere else.
    My personal philosophy is to live to fight another day. Let’s see what it will take to get this place running again and work on recouping what we had to give up in the future.

    Comment by Gerard | July 6, 2009 | Reply

  17. I agree with Gord, time to smell the coffee and look to the future. I really don’t feel Catalyst wants to run our mill anymore, and we need to accept that. Moving on I feel energies would be far better spent on helping membership retrain, transition into other industries, seek early retirement options, access our severance as per the contract. I would like to see a severance that reflects our posted rate when we left the mill too. Not base rate as I believe we are all at now. Other issues I’d like to see explored are ways of actually keeping our severance and not having to use it for retraining as has been offered to me, or loose it all to taxes.
    Brian Lees

    Comment by Brian Lees | July 5, 2009 | Reply

    • I also beleive that they have no intention of starting the mill.I think they are just playing games to avoid having to offer our severance packages.They have already relocated much of the staff and rumour has it they are selling off assets at the mill such as loaders,vehicles etc.

      Comment by Todd Harrison | July 5, 2009 | Reply

  18. Guns and Roses had a song out called Welcome to the Jungle and from what I am reading Catalyst is the biggest snake in it! I admire all the hard work our executive have done to try and get this mill up and running. But having said that it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. This company has no desire to start up this mill, and to keep beating our heads against a wall is now becoming futile. It is now time to realize that there is going to be a life after Elk Falls and people should get used to that idea. It’s time to look at training programs to get ready for your next job. Yes we would all like to go back to work and make a secure place for ourselves but with the management team that is in place I don’t see that happening I can only imagine the celebration in Richmond with the 30 year old scotch and the cuban cigars if they get what they want. To listen to Lyn Brown whose real title should be Minister of Propaganda this company is being attacked from all sides. Well Lyn I can only hope you don’t really believe the crap that you are spewing and are reading prepared statements from Steve Bonoferro. So now I believe is the time for our executive to put the ball in managements court. You’ve done your best but now is the time to let the company give you their proposal so we can see how foolish they are. Maybe head office in New York should start looking at management costs and bonuses paid out

    Comment by Gordon Hartley | July 4, 2009 | Reply

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