Talks between Neucel Specialty Cellulose and Unifor Local 514 continue to blossom as the Port Alice pulp mill searches for ways to reduce their fixed costs.
The 514 Union recently held a vote on Jan. 11 and Jan. 14 to decide whether to amend specific articles of their collective agreement through a letter of understanding.
A letter of understanding is a document that supersedes the collective agreement. Any changes made to the collective agreement would be reflected in the letter of understanding.
The 514 Union vote came back with 70 union members in favour of amending specific articles in the collective agreement. 17 voted against it.
When asked to comment, Neucel Specialty Cellulose’s Vice-President of Human Resources, Warren Beatty, stated that the Union agreed to “concessions made to wages, cost sharing of benefits, and also language in the collective agreement being changed in specific areas.”
Beatty added that Neucel is “very happy that the Union has supported our efforts in restarting the mill,” and that “getting concessions agreed upon by the Union was just one of the elements we needed to go forward with getting funding to restart.”
Beatty confirmed that the search for funding is ongoing, and that Neucel’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Taylor, who was hired in the fall, is no longer with the company as of Dec. 31.
Port Alice Mayor Jan Allen stated that council “is very pleased with the numbers from the Union’s vote. It’s one more step forward to help end the curtailment of Neucel.”
Allen added that even though the Village has had to tighten their belts and make tough decisions recently with regards to their spending, “Port Alice remains the best place to live on the north end of Vancouver Island.”
Neucel has been in production curtailment since March of 2015.
The company was originally supposed to be closed for only six months, but the conditions that existed in March continued to exist after the initial six month curtailment.
Recently, however, there have been improvements on the horizon.
The market price for Neucel’s product is strengthening, which is why the company is now working diligently towards restarting the dormant pulp mill.