It just seems like yesterday that the Progressive Conservative's were out at the gate supporting the unionized employees at the now demolished Abitibi Consolidated pulp & paper mill in Stephenville. Ed Byrne and company were encouraging the union to call the company's bluff. We got your back they were told. We all remember what happened there?
That lesson has not been lost on the province's New Democratic Party.
Fast forward ten years to 2012. The P.C. government is playing the role of union breaker. They are chastising the NDP for asking sensible questions about the security of pension plans that thousands of Corner Brook Pulp & Paper employees have worked a life time for. The reply from Natural Resource's Minister Kennedy, stop playing politics and working for the unions.
The owner of the mill, Quebec's Joe Kruger has issued an ultimatum. He senses the anti-union sentiment, the fear in the air in Corner Brook and expressed by the government. He told the union that they have until June 15th to reverse the vote on the pension restructuring.
Given the situation, I would agree with NDP Leader Lorraine Micheal, why is the government not taking a more pro-active approach to resolving the pension issue. Surely, the province could find away to assist the employees, and the company with the pension issue. They could offer an accommodation that guarenttes employee's that their full pensions will remain whole if the unionized employees make more concessions, and the mill is still found not to be viable. For many people, these pensions are vital to their future.They just can not put them at risk. Such a pro-active policy might ensure the results of the vote and lift the tension that currently exists in Corner Brook.
I am not suggesting a company bailout. I am suggesting a measure that protects unionized worker's hard earned future pension benefits.
Instead, the government wants to wait on the sidelines, watching the pressure pot boil and crossing their fingers that Joe Kruger's gambit works. This is what passes for leadership these days.
The Premier is hopeful that a second vote on pension benefits will produce the desired outcome that the company and government wants, saving the mill for now. I would much rather see provincial money invested in some sort of pro-active pension loan guarantee, than thrown away in another failed industrial disaster relief program.