The definitive shutdown of Québec City’s Stadacona paper mill, which is owned by White Birch Papers, could mean 600 extra workers will have to go without a salary. Among those, many will see their retirement pension greatly reduced, all for the benefit of the factory’s owners and management. The latter proposed unacceptable conditions to the unionized workers: a pay cut of 20% and retirement reduction of between 45% and 65%. Without surprise, 90% of the workers rejected the proposal. The union did not have time to make a counter-proposal before management announced the factory’s closure. This paints a picture where the workers, by refusing the offer, forced the company directors to shut the mill down.
Yet, the well-known interests of a capitalist determine its actions; if the paper industry is less profitable than before, especially with the Internet and different electronic infrastructures, the fact remains that the market value of a product affects first the entrepreneur and his sole desire to capitalize.
Meanwhile, during demonstrations and picket lines in front of the factory, some workers had the idea of collectivizing the mill if ever it went into bankruptcy. This project supposes that the power and the profits would be redistributed amongst the workers. It could be a coincidence, but from that exact moment, the negotiations took place anew: Sam Hamad, Minister of Economic Development, succeeded in talking with Christopher Grant, the mill’s president, and the union now has some time to offer a counter-proposal. Note that the workers of the two other paper factories owned by the Grants, one in Rivière-du-Loup and the other at Gatineau, are concerned in the new collective agreement prepared by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP-FTQ).
It is revolting: as soon as the proletariat attempts to take power, or even has the slightest notion of it, the bourgeoisie engages in dominating the situation and takes control. What we can do, in solidarity, is to support the mill workers’ struggle. What we can wish for them is to collectively organize themselves to prevent any capitalist from managing their lives.