But union criticizes McNeil government
A judge in British Columbia has granted Northern Pulp creditor protection until the end of 2020 and approved an interim third-party financing agreement for the mill to receive $15 million.
The ruling means the mill now has the liquidity to get it to the end of the year as it works toward completing environmental cleanup work required by the Nova Scotia government at a site in Pictou County, according to a CBC report. It will also help the company work on a restructuring effort in hopes of eventually reopening the operation.
Pacific Harbour North American Resources and Paper Excellence Canada, the mill's parent company, will be providing the third-party financing, split 80-20, respectively.
However, workers’ union Unifor criticized the Stephen McNeil government for not allowing the company to use third-party financing to pay severance.
“Our lawyers and Northern Pulp all agreed it was essential to pay workers the outstanding severance owed to them but the Nova Scotia government refused,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. “I am not surprised - this government has consistently abandoned forestry workers. Their pettiness is hurtful to those families struggling through unemployment, through no fault of their own, and enduring a pandemic. The government ought to be looking out for its citizens and not punishing them to make up for its own historical blunders.”
Dias noted that the $15 million is far less than the $50 million the company was seeking to cover operational and environmental costs through the end of 2020. The court also refused multiple suggestions from union and company lawyers to see severance paid due to the Nova Scotia government’s opposition.
“The refusal to allow the company to pay severance feels like another deeply personal attack against workers after Stephen McNeil made such promises to help the forestry sector transition following the Northern Pulp closure,” said Linda MacNeil, Atlantic regional director of Unifor. “We’re not pleased the relationship between Northern Pulp and the Nova Scotia government is so strained that workers are being caught in the crossfire.”
The union also pointed out that Northern Pulp and its parent company Paper Excellence still have a contractual obligation to pay workers severance, and said that the union will continue to speak with government and company officials to demand the outstanding amounts be paid.
“With a Forestry Transition Fund looking for ways to support those affected by the Northern Pulp closure, I can think of no better use right now than for this fund to pay workers their severance,” said Dias. “It would be a show of good faith from a government that has so far left these workers and their families high and dry.”
The mill in question has been shut down since late in January, and the Nova Scotia government previously opened a confidential, toll-free helpline for those affected by the closure.