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Abitibi CEO forgoes bonus

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MONTREAL—AbitibiBowater’s chief executive is foregoing an annual bonus of $1.7 million this year as the forest products producer appeals for help from employees and communities to lower fixed costs.

Among the challenges the company faces is a planned 11 percent reduction in AbitibiBowater’s lumber harvesting rights in Quebec as of April 1, 2013.

That’s on top of an 18 percent reduction in 2008.

“If you have less wood, you have to look at how you optimize it to remain cost-competitive,” CEO Richard Garneau said in an interview yesterday.

Putting his personal compensation on the table is a way to ensure there’s an open dialogue as he seeks unspecified changes from others.

He said the company needs to reduce its fixed costs as the output of chips processed by its sawmills is reduced.

An number of sawmill jobs could be reduced as shifts or facilities are cut.

Garneau said he doesn’t yet know how many jobs would be directly affected at AbitibiBowater.

“We have to find a way to address it in a way that we’re going to remain competitive in the different environment,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, other company executives have accepted their bonuses granted by the board Oct. 25.

Garneau said the company needs to attract and retain talented executives to ensure its long-term viability, and criticized those who have denounced the payments.

“I feel that criticism in Quebec undermines this basic reality of business. It is misguided and short-sighted,” he said during a conference call to discuss third-quarter results.

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