West Que. mill closure puts 218 people out of work
More than 200 workers at a west Quebec mill will be out of work by the end of next week after corrugated cardboard-maker Smurfit Stone announced plans Friday outlining a permanent shut down of its mill in Portage du Fort, Que.
The company blames the closure on the falling price of pulp, which has been ravaged by a strong Canadian dollar and a soft U.S. market amid the American housing crisis.
The Quebec workers, however, are not alone. In the last three years, 32,000 forest workers across the country have also been thrown out of work as sawmills and pulp mills announce shut downs or permanent closures.
Smurfit employees, though, say last week's announcement caught the 218 workers at the Quebec mill by surprise.
"They always told us that if the dollar goes up, we're closing. The dollar went up, we stayed open. Now, the dollar's back down to 86 cents and now we're closed down. It was very unexpected," said Greg Wrinn, an employee at Smurfit Stone.
Last year, employees made $7 million in concessions to help keep the plant open.
In an effort to keep local residents employed, union officials are now lobbying for another business to buy the failed plant.
"We got to try to, but I don't think there's a lot of hope for that point," CEP union representative Maurice Parisien told CTV Ottawa on Monday. "It's a mess."
Local residents agree, insisting the town needs some kind of industry in order to keep people in the area.
"We need something very quickly to happen; we need to have some kind of business step in, open up," said business owner Linda Pacquette, whose husband and son will soon lose their jobs at the mill.
"We need jobs. There's a lot of young people that are leaving the area because there's nothing here."
In the meantime, the union is trying to arrange a meeting with area MP Lawrence Cannon, who they hope can find a way to salvage their livelihoods.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins