Kruger extends deadline for vote on final offer

Montreal-based Kruger Inc. is extending the deadline for reaching a collective agreement in western Newfoundland for another week, saying "the future of the Corner Brook mill is now in the hands of its employees."

The new deadline is June 22.

The company said in a press release Saturday that it left the bargaining table in Corner Brook without reaching an agreement with the unions before the previous deadline of Friday at midnight.

Kruger said all union locals have agreed to meet with their members over the next week to hold a vote on the company’s final proposal.

That proposal, Kruger said in a statement, is “modelled on the framework agreement of its main competitor.”

Kruger officials declined comment as they emerged from behind closed doors minutes before the Friday midnight deadline.

Shortly afterwards, union officials read from a prepared statement.

"The company has withdrawn from negotiations,” said Gary Healey, the national representative for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

“The company has presented us with a new offer and the union will now arrange meetings with our membership to explain the offer and conduct a vote."

Healey declined to answer questions about whether the union is happy with what the company put on the table. “I said what I’m going to say,” Healey told reporters late Friday night.

Just before 8 p.m. Friday, the unions handed their final offer to the Kruger negotiating team.

The paper company countered with its final proposal a few hours later.

In its Saturday news release, Kruger said it needs to settle labour issues so it can complete its assessment of the mill’s future viability.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said she remains "extremely concerned" about the future of the mill.

"I understand the company and the unions have left negotiations, having accomplished as much as they feel was possible, with Kruger’s final proposal now being presented for a vote," Dunderdale said in statement e-mailed to CBC News.

The premier said the government will continue its support for the mill once labour and pension issues are resolved, and a long-term plan for the future is in place.

"I strongly encourage both the company and the unions to continue to work through these matters," Dunderdale said. "We all have the same goal here — that Corner Brook Pulp and Paper remain a key employer and driver of economic growth for the western region and our province."

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