Unifor calls for action to fend off potential Catalyst layoffs

Unifor calls for action to fend off potential Catalyst layoffs

WATCH: The union representing workers at the Catalyst mills on Vancouver Island and Powell River has launched a campaign, asking Canadians to pressure the federal government to address hefty new U.S. tariffs. Unifor says if the Americans don’t back off from their “anti-dumping” duties Catalysts three B.C. mills will be forced to cut hundreds of jobs. Kendall Hanson reports.

With close to 325 employees, the Catalyst mill is one of Port Alberni’s largest employers.

Just over a month ago, the company started paying up to 28 per cent in tariffs and duties on its products heading the U.S.

It’s a huge concern for Port Alberni’s mayor.

“They [Catalyst] can’t continue to pay millions of dollars in anti-dumping tariffs each month,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan. “That isn’t going to continue for long. There needs to be a way of addressing this situation.

Unifor, one of two unions representing workers at Catalyst, has released a social media campaign high lighting the issue.

“I never ever would’ve dreamed that Donald Trump would be affecting my livelihood,” said Brett Vizzuti in the video posted to social media. He is a Catalyst employee in Powell River.

“This is serious this could be catastrophic,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias in the video.

The video highlights workers from the mills.

Unifor says unless the tariffs are lifted, the three Catalyst mills in B.C. plus another mill in Newfoundland could lose 1,500 jobs by the end of this year.

In a statement, Catalyst’s CEO says “We share Unifor?s concern about the unfair and punitive duties…Unfortunately, the duties come at a difficult time for our industry. Newsprint sales are declining while our operating costs continue to increase.”

“So if it shuts down it has a big impact far beyond this city, far beyond the island,” said Ruttan. “This is a really big deal because it’s not just the mill that is impacted. It’s all the sawmills that are dependent and inter-dependent with the pulp and paper industry.”

Unifor is calling on Canadians to share the video online and to write to the federal government. It’s a call Port Alberni’s mayor is echoing.

“Write your MP. Write your MLA.,” said Ruttan. “Get in touch with Premier Horgan. Get in touch with Prime Minister Trudeau. Let them know that you’re concerned.”

Officials from Catalyst and politicians from the municipal, provincial and federal government will be meeting later this week in Victoria. A pressing issue that has huge ramifications for Vancouver Island.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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