Powell River paper mill extends curtailment period

Extension a result of weakness in the market, says general manager

Catalyst Powell River has announced an extension to the current curtailment of its paper operations.

The company had originally announced a curtailment from Saturday, July 20, through to Tuesday, August 6. In a bulletin dated Friday, August 2, Krista Cuddy, general manager for the Powell River operation, said she regrets to announce the curtailment of paper machines 10 and 11 will be extended to Monday, August 12.

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“The extension is a result of continued weakness in the market,” stated Cuddy in her bulletin.

The steam plant will remain running to support power generation, she added.

The bulletin further states that in conjunction with the company’s sales force, Catalyst will continue to pursue opportunities to grow in more sustainable product lines.

“We are actively studying strategic alternatives for our paper machines,” stated Cuddy.

In a bulletin announcing the initial curtailment, reasons given were the result of a continued weakness in the market and a tight fibre supply in the province.

Mike Rumley, president, UNIFOR Local 76, one of the unions representing the mill workers, said the curtailment has been a hit to union members, especially some of the younger workers who don’t have any vacation time to put in.

“They will be going three weeks without any money coming in; it’s pretty tough,” said Rumley. “A lot of people that have been around for a while that have some holidays, because it’s summertime, they’ll take the time off now and enjoy the summer.”

Rumley said the union is just running a maintenance skeleton crew during the shutdown, plus some crew in the steam plant, and that’s all that’s operating.

“It’s not very many people out of all of our membership that’s working,” he said.

Rumley said the union has been onside with efforts to diversify the mill’s products.

“We know we need to diversify,” said Rumley. “We’ve lasted as long as we have quite honestly because we have been able to diversify, trying different things and doing stuff that people never thought we’d be able to make here. That’s the nature of the beast. If you don’t evolve, you become extinct.”

Rumley said he thinks the mill is still trying to figure out what the best options are for Powell River.

“We know that’s our livelihood and we have to stay running,” said Rumley.

He is hoping, from some of the conversations he’s been having with mill management, that the curtailment won’t go beyond its latest extension. Rumley believes there are some orders toward the end of the month that have to be manufactured.

According to Rumley, the mill has lost markets in the United States due to tariffs that were placed on the mill’s products by the United States government. With the tariffs, the Chinese market was pursued, but that market has dried up, he added.

Rumley said he believes some bridges were burned when the mill left the US market so some fences have to be mended in the United States to try to get some of those customers back.

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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