09 February 2009

Government to woods workers: you’re SOL

In December, the provincial government introduced a bill to expropriate Abitibi assets in the province.

The approach would work – said the government – since the legislature is sovereign.

What it says, goes.


When it comes to a couple of hundred workers laid off this week, the government can’t help them get severance pay.

Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Shawn Skinner said it's unfortunate that severance wasn't included in the woods workers' collective agreement, but the government can't force the company to pay beyond what's in the contract.

"From a government perspective, we will do whatever we can to assist them to make sure that they get whatever they are entitled to, to the full benefit of the laws of this province," he said.

Can’t force the company to pay?

Interesting idea that the existing laws on worker issues must stand as they are but seizing stuff government wants is another story.

The innovation added a penetrating insight into the obvious when workers suggested the severance be tied to compensation the government might pay Abitibi and other companies for the expropriation. "Our expropriation really had nothing to do with any contractual arrangements that the mill, and the owners of the mill, had with the employees," Skinner told CBC.