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American and Canadian union members who work for forest industry giant Resolute Forest Products (formerly AbitibiBowater) have joined forces to “speak with one voice” to the company.
About 100 union delegates from 10 Canadian Resolute mills in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia and 4 U.S. mills in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama met recently in Montreal. They adopted a solidarity pledge to coordinate activities and work together, leading to the 2014 pattern and master agreement negotiations with the company in both countries.
“Resolute is on notice that American and Canadian workers will not compete against each other,” said United Steelworkers International Vice President Jon Geenen. “We have decided instead to make sure that we are informed and coordinated across the border and Local to Local about how this company is treating workers and communities.”
“We believe that it was the sacrifices of our members in both countries that made it possible for AbitibiBowater to restructure and become Resolute. We have every right now to insist on consultation and discussion of alternatives before more corporate decisions are taken that affect our members and their communities,” said Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) National President Dave Coles.
At the two-day joint meeting in Montreal, Local delegates reported to each other on cost reduction and job cut demands by the company at every location, often on the basis of comparisons to other mills in each country.
A statement adopted December 18 called for an end to “job blackmail.” “USW and CEP members at Resolute Forest Products today demand respect and fairness,” said the joint statement. “We reject absolutely any form of contrived intimidation between workers and mills. We insist that the company respect our bargaining caucuses, our pattern agreements and end any form of job blackmail between the Local unions.”