With Boat Harbour closure looming, union awaits notice on impact for employees

September 9, 2019

By: The Working Forest Staff

PICTOU, N.S., The Chronicle Herald — The union that represents Northern Pulp workers says it expects to receive notice by early January about how jobs will be impacted by a potential closure, according to a report in The Chronicle Herald.

The mill is legislated to stop operations at the Boat Harbour treatment facility at the end of January 2020.

“The collective agreement requires the employer to give notice of closure at the end of December if they’re going to close,” said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor national president Jerry Dias. “We haven’t received that yet, but we are expecting that they are going to give us that notice just because there’s no guarantee that they’re not going to have to shut down at some time in December or early January.”

At a press conference in Halifax last month, Dias pointed to the results of a Unifor funded study that indicated 2,700 potential job losses in the Nova Scotia forestry sector if the mill were to close.

Northern Pulp cannot operate without an effluent treatment facility.

Given that the company has not yet received provincial approval to begin construction of a new treatment facility, and with the deadline fast approaching, Dias has urged Premier Stephen McNeil to give temporary permits to begin construction on the facility while Northern Pulp continues through the environmental approval process.

“Obviously, where the pipe ends up at the end of the day and the rest of the regulations have to be put in place before the effluent leaves the centre, but there’s no reason why construction of the facility can’t already start,” said Doherty.

That’s not actually true. Last month the premier suggested the company could start construction on the treatment plant before being issued environmental permitting, saying Northern Pulp could “start today if they wanted to but they can’t operate without a permit.”

But the premier’s spokesman David Jackson later clarified his comment, saying the company would need environmental approval before any work can be done on the project.

Northern Pulp’s first permit applications were rejected in March by Margaret Miller, then Nova Scotia’s environment minister. She ordered the company to complete a focus report addressing the areas that department staff felt were lacking sufficient information.

“All of our efforts are on the focus report, and we intend to submit that at the end of September,” said Northern Pulp spokeswoman Kathy Cloutier.

Once that’s submitted there will be a 30-day public consultation followed by a 25-day period in which department staff will again provide a recommendation to Environement Minister Gordon Wilson, who took over from Miller in April.

That’s a short window to complete construction on the replacement facility, which could take up to 21 months to construct. So, Northern Pulp has asked the province for an extension to the 2020 Boat Harbour Act.

“We have said, regardless of where we’re at, an extension to the act will be required to ensure that the industry continues to operate as a whole during the entire assessment, construction, and commissioning,” Cloutier said.

The provincial liberals have consistently made public statements that it will not extend the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline.

“From my perspective, we’re still in the same place that we were in August,” said Doherty.

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