B.C. government to protect Catalyst pensions and jobs

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VICTORIA: The Government of British Columbia has taken action to protect the pension benefits and jobs of almost 1,000 retirees and 1,500 workers of Catalyst Paper.

Effective immediately, the Province has amended the Pension Benefits Standards Regulation to modify the relief granted in 2012 by the previous government. That relief gave Catalyst Paper a longer period to pay off its significant 2012 pension funding shortfall. This also allowed Catalyst to focus on its operations, while still securing pension benefits for its salaried retirees and workers.

“In the face of punitive U.S. trade action, our job is to make sure the interests of B.C. workers and retirees are protected,” said Premier John Horgan. “We are working hard to address the impacts of this threat and ensure the long-term viability of Catalyst’s B.C. operations, but should threatened tariffs force Catalyst Paper to take desperate actions to protect its own interests, our government’s action will protect retirees and workers.”

Today’s action means pension entitlements for Catalyst salaried retirees and workers would be more secure should the company owners, in the face of tariffs, be forced to sell or close one or more of its three pulp and paper mills in Port Alberni, Crofton and Powell River. This would be accomplished by insisting the company fund the remainder of the 2012 outstanding pension obligation immediately. Earlier this month, the American owners of Catalyst Paper liquidated their U.S.-based assets and operations in a US$175-millon deal.

U.S.-Canada trade relations have deteriorated in recent months and B.C. trade officials now anticipate punitive U.S. tariffs, possibly as high as 28.5%, on Catalyst’s paper products, as early as August 2018.

“Our government is putting retirees and workers first,” Premier Horgan said. “We cannot stand by and allow almost 1,000 Catalyst retirees – with an average company pension already less than $20,000 per year – to be last in line should U.S. tariffs push Catalyst into bankruptcy or dissolution.”

Catalyst Paper’s combined operations in B.C. generate over $2 billion in annual economic activity and are key contributors to the local economies of Vancouver Island, Powell River and Metro Vancouver.

“B.C. continues to work hard with Catalyst Paper to put in place conditions that would support its continued viable operations in B.C.,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Over the past six months, the B.C. government has been working with a broad group of local and provincial stakeholders, including Catalyst Paper’s corporate leadership, Unifor officials, local mayors and MLAs, to stabilize the company’s operations and protect jobs in the face of threatened U.S. tariffs.”

“B.C. will continue to fight for jobs and industries in light of unfair U.S. tariffs,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “As a government, we stand with our communities and against these counterproductive trade measures.”