CEP officer says governments must act to develop industrial strategy if paper industry in Western Canada is going to survive, following news of Catalyst Paper's application for bankruptcy protection

Sandy Yang

Sandy Yang

Jan 31, 2012 – CNW

OTTAWA and VANCOUVER , January 31, 2012 (press release) – The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada says today's application for bankruptcy protection by Catalyst Paper shows that the paper industry is at a crossroads. The announcement is the latest in a string of forestry companies that have been forced to seek Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) protection over the past few years.

"If the paper industry in Western Canada is going to survive, governments must act now to develop an industrial strategy and not merely observe from the sidelines," says CEP's Western Region Vice-President Jim Britton.

"We are extremely disappointed that after weeks of working toward a solution, it has come to this. This is a potentially enormous blow to workers and communities on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast which rely on the Catalyst mills for employment, business, and tax revenue. "

"The forest industry in BC has lost 30,000 good-paying jobs in the last decade and we can ill afford to lose any more."

CEP President Dave Coles took aim squarely at the federal government: "Though it has had numerous opportunities, the Conservative government has not lifted a finger to come to the aid of forest workers and their communities from coast to coast," he said.

"Our repeated requests for temporary loan guarantees to assist the forest industry have been ignored," says Coles, noting that governments have helped other industries in similar situations. "Forestry was once a cornerstone of the Canadian economy and - with the political will -- could be again. But the Harper government has never even acknowledged our request for a summit of stakeholders to study renewal."

"Given the desperate situation for so many forestry workers, their families and communities, it is absolutely no consolation that our forewarnings for the industry are coming true."

"Speaking from experience with the CCAA," says Dave Coles, "the future doesn't look good because we know exactly what's next: Workers' money will be used to pay off creditors. This country's bankruptcy act forces workers to the back of the line when it comes to collecting what is owed."

CEP represents more than 750 employee at Catalyst mills in Crofton, Port Alberni, and Powell River in British Columbia.

There are 300 forestry dependent towns in Canada and 55,000 forestry jobs have been lost in the past two years. The 135,000-member CEP represents more than 60,000 forestry workers. There are 300,000 direct and indirect jobs in the forest sector.

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