On Jan. 11, when Canfor Pulp announced the pending closure of its pulp line at Prince George Pulp and Paper mill, it was feared 300 jobs would be permanently lost.
Of those positions slated to be eliminated, 220 were union jobs.
But because employees at the three Canfor pulp mills in the city have accepted early retirement packages or have decided to leave the company, that layoff number had been reduced to about 90 unionized workers.
Chuck LeBlanc, president of the Private and Public Workers of Canada Local 9, said 32 PPWC members have accepted early retirement packages, which the company has extended to employees 60 or older who will now retire this year.
A similar offer was made to Unifor Local 603, which represents unionized workers at Northwood Pulp Mill, and LeBlanc said about 30 Northwood employees accepted retirement packages.
Another 28 union positions were made available when workers decided to leave for other jobs, some in the city and some in other locations.
The announced closure also affects about 80 Canfor Pulp management and union-exempt staff. The Citizen is awaiting a response from Canfor Pulp to confirm how many of those workers will lose their jobs.
LeBlanc said those accepting packages will apply to the provincial government’s Bridging to Retirement program to help forestry workers affected by the decline in the forest industry. The program will provide up to $75,000 for eligible employees and contractors whose jobs are dependent on the mill.
“We would have liked to have seen packages offered down to a younger age, maybe 55, but the company wasn’t willing to go that far at this point,” he said. “They’re going to follow what was in our collective agreement and very little else but the bottom line.”