Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grand Falls-Windsor region will be devastated if AbitibiBowater offer rejected: mayor

The mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor is pleading with workers at AbitibiBowater to reach a deal with the paper company as the deadline approaches for workers to vote on a final offer.

Mayor Rex Barnes said Wednesday that he has tried to stay neutral in the negotiations between the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union and AbitibiBowater, but now he is telling workers to look at the impact it will have on the town when they are deciding how to vote.

Barnes estimates that indirectly up to 1,000 jobs could be lost if the mill shuts down. He won't go so far as to tell workers to vote in favour of the plan, but he warns that if a deal isn't reached, it will be devastating to the region.

"You cannot shut down a major operation like AbitibiBowater and expect that it is going to be smooth sailing. It's very important that everyone understands that. We've said before that AbitibiBowater is a big part of our economy. We want it to stay," he said.

Barnes said the workers will be voting on the final offer before next Friday because that is the deadline the company has set for their response.

However, Gary Healey, the national CEP representative, won't confirm that a vote will take place.

Healey is attending a CEP conference, and refuses to comment on anything to do with the mill situation until he returns to Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday.

The company's original restructuring proposal included 171 layoffs. It is believed this final offer contains similar numbers of layoffs.

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