Word that Abitibi-Consolidated and Bowater Inc. were planning a “merger of equals” certainly came out of the blue Monday morning—catching most, including the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers of Canada, off guard.
And given the unease surrounding our own mill’s future of late, fuelled by the continued weakness of the forest industry right across Northern Ontario, it’s no surprise the announcement also was greeted warily by many here.
Just three weeks ago, the mood around town was decidedly upbeat after members of the four local mill unions accepted a deal with Abitibi-Consolidated that offered the company labour stability in exchange for a pledge to build a new bio-mass (hog fuel) boiler here.
Now, suddenly, everyone is wondering whether that $70-million project—an investment many consider crucial to our mill remaining viable—will go ahead, or even if the mill itself will remain open once the dust settles.
Investors apparently like the plan, with shares of both companies rising sharply on the news earlier this week. And for his part, Abitibi CEO John Weaver said the new AbitibiBowater “will be a global leader . . . with a bright future than either company would have on its own.”
The CEP, predictably, isn’t popping the champagne corks just yet. National rep Rene Lindquist, speaking from Thunder Bay, said the merger may be good at the end of the day, but also conceded it’s in his nature to “be suspicious.”
Any change brings with it a degree of uncertainty and only time will tell just what happens from all this. In the meantime, though, let’s think positive about the proposed merger instead of fearing it. After all, our mill has gone through several name changes over the past 20 years without the sky falling—and there’s no reason to believe this one will be any different.