Abitibi workers to maintain blockade

The 300 hundred employees of the AbitibiBowater paper mill in Beaupré say they will maintain a blockade at the plant, north of Quebec City, until they get their severance pay.

The workers, who said they are owed a total of $12 million, set up a trailer blocking the road leading into the mill on Monday.

The severance pay is required according to the workers collective agreement, said union local president Mario Leclerc.

The workers are owed between $40,000 to $60,000 each, said Leclerc.

The company cannot afford to make the payments, because it is under bankruptcy protection, said AbitibiBowater spokesman Pierre Choquette.

Each worker must file a request for compensation through the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, he said.

“Already a package has been sent to them with forms, and all of these forms have to be completed by each of the employees, with the amount according to their personal situation,” said Choquette.

The deadline for the forms to be submitted is April 7, he said.

Leclerc, however, said the workers have already submitted their claims.

The barricade will stay put until the workers are offered the full amount of their severance packages, he said.
Agreement with union

AbitibiBowater announced plans to shut down its Beaupré plant and to suspend operations at three other Canadian plants in September.

The company blamed the move on a worldwide drop in demand for all types of paper.

Earlier this month, AbitibiBowater reached a tentative deal with its union that could allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

The agreement, which includes concessions from workers, is currently going through the ratification process. Pension regulators in Quebec and Ontario must also give their nod.

The company has been operating under creditor protection in both Canada and the United States for almost a year. It filed to restructure after struggling amid slumping newsprint demand and debts approaching $5 billion.

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