Quebec steps in to reopen shuttered White Birch mill

The province’s natural resource’s minister promises Quebec’s taxpayers won’t be on the hook for any funding.

January 17, 2012   by The Canadian Press

MONTREAL—The Quebec government is exploring ways to revive the closed White Birch paper mill, which was shuttered amid union disputes last week, costing 600 jobs.

Sam Hamad, Quebec’s economic development minister, met with company president Christopher Brant in Montreal yesterday to express his disappointment that the situation had deteriorated.

Hamad said a solution to the mill closure will be reached between its owner and the workers.

U.S.-based White Birch Paper Co. idled its Stadacona plant and dismissed 600 unionized workers after they rejected a company offer that would have slashed wages and pension benefits, by more than half.

A government mediator is trying to bring the company and the workers together.

Hamad reiterated Quebec’s willingness to help the company, either through financial assistance or with pension-fund relief.

But Quebec’s Natural Resources Minister Clement Gignac said taxpayers won’t be put on the hook to keep the facility open, suggesting the private sector would have to make major investments to re-open the doors.

The company was the second-largest newsprint manufacturer in North America before filing for bankruptcy protection in February 2010.

At the time it employed 1,300 people at three pulp and paper mills and a saw mill in Quebec and a fourth pulp and paper mill in Virginia.

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