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Corner Brook Pulp and Paper cuts ties with South Brook harvesting contractor

Regardless of what people are calling it, the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill in Corner Brook is seeing changes to its staffing levels.
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill in Corner Brook. - Diane Crocker

44-year working relationship ends

SOUTH BROOK

A week after learning Corner Brook Pulp and Paper was cutting its ties with his company, Milton Elliott says he is just starting to sleep again.

The pain of the decision and anxiety over Arthur Fowlow Ltd. employees’ futures has not lessened for the South Brook-based company’s office manager however.

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper cut ties with Arthur Fowlow Ltd. on April 10. The business relationship dates back to 1974 when Corner Brook Pulp and Paper was its predecessor, Bowater Newfoundland.

The decision meant the loss of 24 jobs, although unionized workers with Arthur Fowlow Ltd. have bumping abilities at other woodlands contractors within the union. They also have recall rights for two years.

Elliott said the company was aware of the struggles within Corner Brook Pulp and Paper’s woodlands operation. It was suspected there would be some quota reductions throughout the industry, but he expected it to be evenly distributed among all logging contractors.

Elliott says they were called in for a meeting with Kruger officials, April 10 where the news was delivered.

“We wanted a reason why they chose us over another contractor, because it wouldn’t make any difference which contractor from a cost point of view,” Elliott said. “I would still like to know the logic behind it because it escapes us."

According to Elliott, Arthur Fowlow Ltd. is the longest-serving harvester for the pulp and paper company. The company annually had contracts from January to May and June to December.

Sterling Fowlow of Arthur Fowlow Limited of South Brook works on a Timberjack harvester.
Sterling Fowlow of Arthur Fowlow Limited of South Brook works on a Timberjack harvester.

 

Elliott says his company was a model contractor with no apparent issues with the union or the company itself.

“It is baffling when you follow all the rules and regulations and do everything they wanted you to do,” he said. “You basically have very little control over anything you do, other than getting a contract and putting your gear down."

Arthur Fowlow was chosen as 2010’s best overall forestry contractor in Atlantic Canada by the Canadian Woodlands Forum. The same year it was recognized as Corner Brook Pulp and paper’s top contractor.

“This is a contractor and a group of people who give 100 per cent every day,” Pat Tompkins, woodlands manager with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, said at the time. “They are constantly striving to do more and to do it better ... They’re setting the bar for what’s required from contractors in order to survive these days.”

Elliott is the son-in-law of original owner, Arthur Fowlow. He has been working for the company for 38 years, and now works for current owner and brother-in-law, Sterling Fowlow.

He said the company has provided stable employment for people throughout the region, with employees from the Springdale and Green Bay area to Fogo and many places between.

Based on the annual fibre it must produce to survive as a company, Elliott says the future looks bleak.

“I really don’t see any hope for us,” he said. “We have a capability to produce a certain amount of fibre, and we have over a million dollars worth of gear that we are not going to be able to pay for.”

Kruger’s response

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper says the decision will improve the competitiveness and efficiency of its woodland operations. The strategic initiative reduces its wood procurement costs, which it reports as the highest in North America.

The company recently reported being stuck with an estimated $30-million cost from American tariffs. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the two are not connected.

“(This decision) is the result of an ongoing strategic plan to reduce costs and improve efficiency across all operations and it is one of several initiatives that have been implemented to offset increasing market pressures worldwide.”

The spokesperson said the company will provide no interviews or other comments on the subject.

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