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UNIFOR frustrated they aren't included in the forestry transition team

On December 20th, 2019, Premier Stephen McNeil announced Northern Pulp would not be getting an extension to the deadline imposed by the Boat Harbour Act of 2015
Brian Baardo (Paper Excellence CEO) and Linda MacNeil (Unifor Atlantic Regional Director)
Paper Excellence Group CEO Brian Baarda, and UNIFOR Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil speaking to reporters after the province announced no extenstion to the Boat Harbour Act (Dave Heintzman/Halifaxtoday.ca)

UNIFOR'S Atlantic Regional Director says they are trying to work with the government, and Northern Pulp to find a clear path forward that will protect workers, and keep the forestry industry alive in Nova Scotia.

Linda MacNeil telling NEWS 95.7 it is a frustrating time, but acknowledges neither party has been perfect in this situation.

MacNeil says from their perspective, it's not an ideal situation by a long shot to have a transition team discussing ways to help people in the entire forestry sector including Northern Pulp employees when UNIFOR representatives are not even allowed at the table to add their input.

She says there is at least a little bit of good news from the company so far.

"The company has given their commitment they will follow the provisions of the collective agreement up to and including still maintaining their pension payments, so the company hasn't just walked away and threw up their hands, so again, that's the positive lining in all of this," explains MacNeil.

She says they met with the provincial government January 2nd to make suggestions about finding the clear path forward, including asking for a third party to help both sides get to an agreeable resolution.

"It's so fresh right now of the decision, and the crushing of their jobs, some may take the opportunity to retrain, and some may decide to move to another province, unfortuantely for Nova Scotia," says MacNeil. "At this point people are still trying to figure out their path forward."

There are reports JD Irving in neighbouring New Brunswick is hiring, and Northern Pulp's parent company - Paper Excellence Group - is reputedly looking at providing opportunities at other facilities across the country.

MacNeil says some of their membership is able to try to wait out the environmental assessment process from Northern Pulp and the province, but about half their members are young, and can't afford to wait years on a chance the mill reopens down the line.

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