MADAWASKA, Maine — Whether Fraser Papers Inc. shuts down its Edmundston, New Brunswick, sulfite pulp operation, Fraser plans to continue running its paper mill across the border in Madawaska, Bill Peterson, the company’s human resources director, said Friday.
Fraser officials said the company would pull the plug on the sulfite operation, eliminating more than 200 jobs in Edmundston, after 54 percent of the unionized workers there rejected the company’s final contract offer on Thursday, Peterson said.
Union officials announced Friday, however, that the union had scheduled a meeting for Monday evening to reconsider its vote.
“If they can vote and notify us that they’ve accepted the terms of the contract offer, then we would have a labor agreement and we could start taking steps to restart the sulfite operation,” Peterson said Friday afternoon.
He cautioned, however, that the vote would have to take place by no later than Monday morning because Fraser is poised to enter into long-term agreements with suppliers of hardwood and softwood pulp.
After Thursday’s union vote, Fraser officials said they planned to officially announce on Monday that the sulfite operation would be shut down and more than 200 workers laid off.
Plans were to keep 80 full-time unionized workers and another 12 part-time workers to maintain the Edmundston mill’s groundwood pulp and cogeneration operations, which feed Fraser’s paper mill just across the St. John River in Madawaska, Peterson said.
The company planned to replace the sulfite pulp the Edmundston mill had been piping to the Madawaska plant with hardwood and softwood pulp bought from suppliers in the region, he said.
Without the concessions being asked of the union workers at the Edmundston mill, Peterson said, “we can buy [the pulp] cheaper than we can manufacture it in our mill in Canada.”
According to Peterson, the Madawaska mill employs 672 people.
Fraser’s Madawaska mill is its large largest paper mill and is capable of producing a wide variety of specialty packaging, publishing, label and converting papers, according to the company’s Web site.
Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, the company has operations in Maine, New Hampshire, New Brunswick and Quebec.