A split formed Friday in the union movement at Prince George's pulp and paper facilities.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (two Locals: 603 and 1133) accepted a new contract from Canfor Pulp for its workers at the three local plants but the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada (Local 9) have turned down virtually the same contract.
"This is fairly new territory when we have turned it down but the other union has accepted it. They have a deal; we have to do what we've got to do," said pulp and paper woodworkers national first vice president Frank Robertson.
The membership rejected the proposed five-year pact with about 60 per cent turning the offer down.
However, the two CEP locals combined for a 71 per cent approval rating of the proposed contract. The union is now finalizing the implementation of a five-year pact with increases in extended health benefits, a lump sum additional payment of $3,750 in the first two years then wage increases of two to three per cent in each of the final three years.
"It is a good agreement for the times," said Dave Schaub, spokesman for the CEP. "The members seem to be happy with it and the stability it will provide. The employer was happy with it as well."
Although there are differences in the details, the core elements of the proposed deals were the same, said union representatives.
"There were items in the contract that caused the guys a lot of concern. One was the lump sum payment in the first two years of the contract, and the other was a holiday buy-back proposal," said Robertson. "We have contacted management this morning, and we are going to take a few days just to think about what it all means and move forward when we all have a clearer plan."
Schaub said the realities for the two unions were not the same, so he did not call the rejection of the plan a sign of trouble, only a reflection of some differences between the three mills and two unions involved.
"They [union members] have to figure out what they are going to do now. This will be a challenge for them, to say the least," said Schaub. "But the eternal optimist in me says they will do their best to get to an agreement and we will all get on with what we do best and that is make pulp and paper."
Canfor Pulp did not respond to interview requests.