Paper Excellence Chetwynd lays off 109, but company not saying when layoffs take effect

More than 100 employees were given layoff notices at a pulp mill outside of Chetwynd November 27, but they will remain a....

Chetwynd mechanical pulp mill | Photo: Alaska Highway News files

Workers at Chetwynd Mechanical Pulp, a division of Paper Excellence, were informed that a planned mill shutdown that was supposed to last until January 2016, would be extended to March, and 109 layoffs were issued along with this news.

"Employees are still working at this moment, but we're finalizing details with employees and the union," Jessica Ko, the company's spokesperson and in-house counsel said in an emailed statement.

The company isn't saying how long it will be until the layoffs take effect. "We will address this with each individual employee," Ko said.

Employees at the mill are represented by Unifor Local 448. The union could not be reached by the number listed on their website, which appears to be out of service.

While Paper Excellence classifies the layoffs as "temporary" and claims this is allowable under the collective agreement, they will not say if these same employees will be hired back when the plant is supposed to reopen in March.

The mill, formerly owned by Tembec, employed 140 people when it reopened in May 2015. That number has since dropped to "around 115," according to Ko.

The facility underwent a maintenance shutdown in September that wasn't announced to the media until October. At that time, the company said it would be reopening the mill in January 2016.

Paper Excellence called it a "routine maintenance shutdown," but its Deputy CEO Pedro Chang added that it intended to take advantage of the "poor market conditions" for Bleached Chemi Thermo Mechanical Pulp (BCTMP) to do some repairs and improvements to "position the mill for long-term success as the market improves."

The company remains hopeful the mill will reopen and the market will improve. "We will continue to monitor market conditions and assess inventory," Ko said.

Alaska Highway News