Letter: Concerns about Abitibi
A message found in the ForestTalk.com inbox on this Christmas Day:
To Whom it May Concern,
On December 15th, 2011 Resolute Forest Products (aka Abitibi Bowater) announced that they would be commencing a formal Take-Over Bid for Fibrek Inc. with the maximum cash consideration available under the offer to be $71,541,556.
On December 24th, 2011 my father also got an announcement from Resolute Forest Products in his mailbox about a similar dollar amount. He was told that as of December 31st, 2010 the company was short $71,794,000 in the pension fund and he could be losing a large part of his pension.
This is not a Christmas message anyone wants to receive.
It’s also not the first time Resolute (who I’ll refer to as Abitibi) has told this tale. In 2005 Abitibi also closed another of their mills in Kenora, Ontario putting an estimated 400 people out of work. The last we heard it sounded as though all the employees in Kenora also had to sacrifice 11% of their Pensions, and while it’s less than the 17% we’re being asked to sacrifice, it’s still a lot of money. Money people have worked years for, and money that amounts to millions for Abitibi.
But let’s talk again about what’s happening today. Today this has spread from Canada to the United States with at least 10 locations in Canada, and mills in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama being affected. For times sake I’m going to focus on where it’s hitting my family and friends though, right here in Fort Frances Ontario.
To start, here in the Fort Frances Mill they now have employees working the jobs of 3 people or more which people struggle to do, but will just to keep their jobs. They have people who were formally out on compensation for injuries coming back in and working, cutting into their recuperation and possibly making their issues worse. They even have people who were once making a decent wage taking pay cuts of $10 or more just to stay on the job, but all of this is not enough.
Now they’ve officially announced that the mill in Fort Frances Ontario will be shut down and may not re-open unless “market conditions improve” according to a company spokesperson. Market conditions that seem to be working out for Abitibi, because while they don’t have that 71 million dollars in pension money, they do have 71 million dollars to offer Fibrek stockholders in an attempt to buy more paper mills. They’re doing all of this while remaining in debt protection from both the American and Canadian governments.
Since the devastating loss of 400 jobs in Kenora and even more elsewhere the senior staff at Abitibi have been flourishing. In 2009, the year before they threatened to take away 17% of everyones pension in the Fort Frances area they were doing quite well for themselves. Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Jacques P. Vachon made a profit of $831,578 from AbitibiBowater. CFO William G. Harvey made a little less raking in just over a half million. He was just short of $600,000 with a total of $593,565 made that year. Finally, Alain Grandmont, the Senior Vice President made $1,170,953. If you added together the yearly salary of my grandfather, my father, and my uncle, (all of which are or were mill employees) it wouldn’t even equal a fourth of that amount.
Yes this not only affects my father, but also my grandfather who worked at the same mill for 40 years before retiring. My aunt who survives on the pension her late husband left her, and a family friend who struggles to survive on a paltry $300 every two weeks that she also receives from her late husbands pension fund. All of these people and many more will be asked to sacrifice while the CEOs are thriving.
This Christmas has been a strange one for us filled with fear, anxiety, and hope… that someone will do the right thing. This is just the information that I managed to gather in a night, but I plead with you to keep digging, and expose the injustices that are occurring here. Mostly though I just want to see the investments made by my, and the many other families affected by this protected. And I want to see this company do what’s right.
I’m not good at wrapping things up or writing a conclusion so I’ll leave you with a poem. My father wrote it. He’s a man who works in what may soon be the shut down mill in Fort Frances. I think he expresses better than I can how many affected by this series of events are feeling this holiday. I hope you and anyone who reads this agrees.
December 24th and all through the house
No one was sleeping the paper mill quiet as a mouse
Fibrek cost 71 million the pensions shortfall
The CEOs are laughing and having a ball
As they hold the pensions over everyones heads
They stuff their mattresses with millions and fill the workers with dreads
If they sold one hog fuel boiler or mill they could pay the debt off
Borrow the money, or pay the debt off? The CEOs just scoff.
We’ll break the Unions, we’ll shut more mills down
There will be nothing left but small ghost towns
We’ll take from your Mother and Father and Grandparents too
Survival of the most greedy, and evil is what we do
You opened your contracts you opened the door
All we want now is more
- Resolute Forest Products pension plans underfunded by $1.9 billion
- Resolute Forest Products reports net loss of $5 million in first quarter, 2013
- Resolute Forest Products curtails paper making in Fort Frances for the rest of the year
- Resolute Forest Products extends shutdown in Fort Frances, Ontario
- Resolute Forest Products appeals tax rate in Fort Frances, Ontario
- Fort Frances mill soon to restart amidst rumours of job cuts
- Fraser Papers retirees launch Victims of Brookfield Association
- Why the 'Occupy' movement? A true story