Elk Falls Workers

Campbell River B.C.

Company Meeting…

Dan & Myself were contacted by telephone today, much the same as other Elk employees, informing us of a meeting for Elk Falls employees being held by the Company at the Coast DI tomorrow at 1:30.

Normally it is proper protocol to give a heads up to the Union, but in this case we have not been given any advance notice as to the nature of the meeting, but based upon articles in today’s newspaper, I would expect they are planning on trying to intimidate people into accepting their recent offer.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | General, Meetings | 18 Comments

Town Hall Meeting fails to provide Answers…

Catalyst held 2 employee “Town Hall” meetings today at the Discovery Inn – both were well attended, but few attendees left with any real answers to the questions they wanted answered in order to help them make an informed decision about whether or not to apply for their  severance later this month.

Richard Garneau led both meetings. He went into great detail about the precarious financial situation the company currently finds itself in.

He then spoke about his view that “economically”, things were beginning to show signs of turning around, and that once that turnaroud gets going there would once again be economic fibre available on the coast. And once fibre becomes available,  he believes there could still be a future for Elk Falls as a 2 machine specialty mill. Provided of course, that we get to $80 ton, which he now considers to mean a $40 per hour all-in wage structure.

When he got to the subject of severance, Mr Garneau couldn’t have been more evasive about Company plans for paying employees out. He said people could apply on the 26th, and that the Company would review their financial position and make a decision about paying out by the 8th of March.  He kept implying that if too many people applied, it could mean forcing the Company into bankruptcy protection (CCAA). However, he wouldn’t give a straight answer as to what “too many” was.  Several people tried to get an answer to the question “if they applied for a severance, and then the Company applied for CCAA, would they still be an active employee without a severance or would they be considered severed from the Company and become an unsecured creditor waiting to see what they get, if anything for a severance?”. Throughout the 2 meetings this question was answered many opposing ways. Richard told people that once they had signed the application for severance, they were severed. On another occasion, Steve Boniferro said that people wouldn’t be considered severed until they actually received their severance money.  630 President Doug Ellis asked him if he would put that in writing, to which to Steve replied that he would.  But shortly after the meeting ended, Steve backed up and said he’d have to check with legal council before he could say for sure.

The biggest surprise of the meeting was that Mayor Charlie Cornfeld was on hand to explain that the City and Catalyst have come to an “Agreement in Principle” that would see the tax that Catalyst pays in Campbell River lowered to $1.5 million/yr. on a going forward basis.

Rather than try to explain everything that took place at the meeting in 1 post, as people leave comments, I will try to fill in more of the blanks about what took place or was said, and our interpretation of what it may have meant.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | General, Meetings | 36 Comments

Company Proposal to Restart Elk – Update

Representatives from both Locals 630 and 1123 along with our National rep met with the Company on Wed Oct 21st to give them a formal response to their recent proposal for restarting Elk Falls.
We told the Company that both Locals had reviewed it with their respective memberships and that the members clearly indicated they were not interested in the proposal.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | - $80 Ton Updates | 2 Comments

Details of Company Proposal

On Sept 18, 2009,  the Company presented the Unions with the following list of proposed contractual changes they say are required in order to restart 2 of the paper machines at Elk Falls mill.  Printed copies will be available at Monday’s General Meeting.

In order to give the Elk Falls mill the greatest opportunity for a successful and sustainable operation, the following is proposed:

  • Two paper machines will restart at Elk Falls
  • A bonus plan will be developed tied to the profitability of the company to allow Elk Falls’ employees to share in the company’s positive earnings
  • Reduced manning levels and changes to operating practices contemplated during the mill’s “$80/t discussions” will be put into effect

That the following changes to the mill’s ongoing labour costs are put in place:


  • Will be frozen until April 30, 2014 at a 20% reduction from the May 1st, 2009 contract rates
  • Base labour rate will be reduced to $20.50 per hour

Premium pay

  • All regularly scheduled hours worked will be paid at straight time
  • Hours worked outside regularly scheduled shifts will be paid at time-and-one-half for all hours worked
  • Hours worked on Easter Monday, Canada Day, Labour Day, New Years Day will be paid at time-and-one-half; the three Christmas statutory holidays will be paid at double time. No call time will be paid for regularly scheduled shifts that fall on a stat holiday. New Years stat to 24 hours.
  • Unscheduled call-ins outside of regularly scheduled shifts will receive 3 hours pay or hours worked at time-and-one-half, whichever is greater
  • All other premiums for work performed during regularly scheduled shifts will be eliminated, including the 8 hour reduction in a workweek that contains a stat.


  • Vacation entitlement for all current employees will be capped at 4 weeks.
  • Employees are not required to take more than 3 weeks vacation per year if they so elect
  • Vacation will be taken in full week blocks for day workers, 48-hour blocks for tour workers
  • All time off will be smoothed and will be scheduled for the following contract year by May 1st
  • The 10-hour “vacation bonus” is eliminated. Vacation will be paid at regular card rate.

Supplemental vacation

  • No further supplemental vacation will be accumulated.

Floating Holidays

  • Floating holiday entitlement is reduced to 2 days.
  • Statutory holiday floaters, including taking an alternative day off when a stat falls on a scheduled day off, are eliminated.


  • Employer pension contributions reduced to 6%
  • Bridge benefit eliminated.

Welfare Plan

  • All H&W benefits to 50/50 cost sharing for all current employees and future retirees

Non-Core Work

  • The management and employees of the mill are accountable for providing for the safe and cost-efficient operation and maintenance of the facilities and equipment necessary to support the manufacture and shipping of paper.
  • Activities not directly supportive of that objective such as waste management & recycling services, lawn, garden & brushing services, janitorial, street sweeping, mobile crane, sign making, sheet metal, sandblasting, painting and others, as may be identified, will be reviewed to find the lowest total cost alternative

September 19, 2009 Posted by | - $80 Ton Updates, - Mill News | 50 Comments

Catalyst Meeting with Locals

Local 630 and 1123 finally met with Catalyst yesterday to hear the proposal they had for us.

Both Locals were in attendance when the Company made their presentation. We didn’t discuss the proposal with the Company, we simply told them we would go away and review it and get back to them.

Our plan was to have the executive give it a review and then talk about it at Mondays general meeting before providing any public comment. We don’t normally release any information or comments until we have had a chance to talk about it with our members and give the company our reply.

I was unpleasantly surprised that they put out a news release blaming us for the lack of discussions and accusing the locals of not working with them to cut costs. Before we even had a chance to get back to them. This is a common reoccurring theme for Catalyst, it’s always someone else’s fault.

Based on Catalyst putting out the news release and speculation that the proposal will be circulated before our general meeting, we plan to release details later today on the blog.

For anyone that’s seen the news release – don’t get your hopes up.  The offer is similar to what was offered to the PPWC at Crofton a couple of months ago – a general gutting of the contract.

September 19, 2009 Posted by | - $80 Ton Updates | 4 Comments

Catalyst news release

September 18, 2009

Catalyst proposes Elk Falls mill restart plan to union locals

Richmond, BC – Catalyst Paper (TSX:CTL) today presented the two union locals representing workers at the Elk Falls paper mill with a plan that would result in the restart of production.  The company’s plan provides for the start up of at least two of the mill’s paper machines and a profit sharing system based on the company’s earnings, in return for changes to wages and benefits. Under the company’s plan, the average hourly wage rate would remain in excess of $26.00.

“Our business is in the grip of a deep cyclical downturn, coupled with demand shifts and structural changes. We have to make adjustments to the cost structure of each of our mills to give them the greatest opportunity for a successful operation long-term,” said Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer.

“We would rather work through the details of the issues facing the Elk Falls mill together with the union locals, but they declined that opportunity and asked the company for a plan,” he said.  “We recognize our plan proposes changes to the status quo at the mill but believe it reflects the need to adapt to the lower-cost demands of our new, smaller, highly competitive market,” he added.

The Elk Falls mill was indefinitely idled in early February with resulting layoffs affecting approximately 400 hourly and staff employees. Elk Falls hourly employees are represented by Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) locals 630 and 1123.

Catalyst Paper manufactures diverse specialty printing papers, newsprint and pulp. Its customers include retailers, publishers and commercial printers in North America, Latin America, the Pacific Rim and Europe. With six mills strategically located in British Columbia and Arizona, Catalyst has a combined annual production capacity of 2.5 million tonnes. The company is headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada and its common shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol CTL. Catalyst is listed on the Jantzi Social Index® and is also ranked by Corporate Knights as one of the 50 Best Corporate Citizens in Canada.

– 30 –

For more information contact:
Lyn Brown
Vice President, Corporate Relations
(604) 247-4713

September 19, 2009 Posted by | - $80 Ton Updates | 3 Comments

Friday July 17 – Mr Garneau Comes To Town

We were called by Richard Demchuck on Thursday and told that Mr Garneau, Boniferro, Johnston and others were in town the next day and wanted to meet with reps of both locals. He couldn’t tell us what the meeting was about so we took our standing committee. The meeting was basically a business review with Mr Garneau telling us how bad things are in the paper industry.  He went through a series of slides to explain how we had to reduce the cost of our newsprint to below $400 dollars per ton in order to have any hope of surviving the next few years. To get below $400/ton we would have to work for free. His point was we have to reduce our labour costs from $65 dollars per hour to below $40 dollars per hour, that’s including benefits. He reiterated that it isn’t only the Elk Falls mill that they expect to reduce the cost per hour, but all the Catalyst mills including the ones with a $80/ton plan.

He then went on to say that projected North American consumption will be  below what the American Papermills can produce on their own, so we won’t be able to export any newsprint to the USA. They also enjoy the black liquor subsidy that we don’t and he thinks they will use it to modernize their mills.

I was left with the impression that there are no plans to restart Elk anytime soon.  He did say it was only the mills with very low cost structures that will run.  He also commented on how the municipalities don’t seem to care about his tax problems and the Provincial Government isn’t interested in talking to Catalyst about it either.  He also doesn’t like how the Federal Government is administering the black liquor subsidy.  He said if we (the unions) could talk to all three levels of government it would be helpful since they are our government and will listen to us. He left us with all this information and suggested it was something we needed to think about.

He said it was clear his predictions about the industry had been right so far and reiterated the need to continue the course he is on.   At the end of the meeting he asked if we had any questions.  Since he had made it clear he wasn’t interested in debating his figures or his analysis of them, there wasn’t many questions.

I thought it was an odd meeting:  on one hand he says we have to reduce costs to run, but on the other hand says there isn’t any market for our paper now or in the future. He also said the market for all the other paper that Catalyst makes is also quickly eroding.

July 17, 2009 Posted by | - $80 Ton Updates | 6 Comments

$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 | 23 Comments