Northern Pulp issues layoff notices as it seeks judicial review
HALIFAX -- Northern Pulp says it has started giving layoff notices to management employees at its Nova Scotia mill.
The company has moved to mothball the mill after its plan for a new treatment system that would see it pump treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait was rejected by the province.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said this week that as part of the shutdown, discharge from the mill will continue to flow into a treatment lagoon in Boat Harbour beyond the legislated Jan. 31 deadline.
Northern Pulp says a majority of its 90 management employees will be laid off over the next few months with the earliest losing their jobs by next week.
The announcement came as the firm announced Thursday it will go to court to seek a judicial review of the province's requirement it file an environmental assessment.
The company says in a release it wants to bring the matter before the court so it can get "clarity about the process and elements required in order to be successful in the environment assessment process we'll be embarking upon later this year."
Unifor, the union that represents workers at the mill, also issued a release saying it will join with the firm and nine "individuals representing the broader forestry industry" in seeking a judicial review of the Liberal government's Dec. 17 decision.
"Unifor is committed to our members at Northern Pulp and has always believed the mill can coexist in Pictou County, knowing this company is willing and wanting to invest in environmental upgrades," said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic regional director.
Don MacKenzie, the president of the Unifor local of the mill workers' union, said in a text message to The Canadian Press that so far, all of the layoff notices this week were for management employees.
"Next week the union numbers will be determined," he wrote.
The company says about 20 per cent of its workforce will remain after Feb. 1 as it winds down operations.
Northern Pulp says a small number of employees will monitor and maintain the facility as it is put into a state of "hibernation," and some will focus on an environmental assessment for a new effluent treatment facility.
Tim Houston, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, held a news conference Thursday, saying McNeil has mishandled the file by not calling for a more thorough environmental review earlier in the process.
"Seven days from now, as many as 11,000 families will be left to wonder where their next pay cheque is coming from," said Houston.
McNeil is calling on the McNeil government to strike an all-party committee to travel the province to seek solutions for the future of the industry.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2020.