October 28, 2013 4:21 pm
Updated: October 28, 2013 4:53 pm

Protest sparked after Miramichi mill hires Quebec workers

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MIRAMICHI, N.B. – Dozens of New Brunswick workers were at the front gates of Arbec Forest Products Monday morning after the mill, which has been shut down for a routine maintenance period of a couple weeks, contracted the work to a Quebec-based company.  

Protesters say the mill should have contracted the work to local New Brunswickers.

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“We’re qualified to do it and we should be in there, our own guys,” said millwright welder Calvin Donovan.

“If you look the last few years, with the mills and that, we don’t have a lot left here.”

The region from Miramichi to Campbellton suffers the highest unemployment rate in the province at more than 14 per cent — when there’s a chance for work, people take it.

The mill was shut down for almost six years. It reopened last November with the help of the provincial and federal governments — $15.3-million was invested by the province alone, leaving some Miramichi-area MLAs confused as to why the company decided to contract work from outside the province when New Brunswick taxpayers helped get the mill back on its feet.

“A company from Quebec potentially outbid them by quite a lot and outbid them for the job. … It’s a tendering process, it’s fair, but it’s not helping the people of the Miramichi,” said Jake Stewart, MLA for Southwest Miramichi.

Stewart and Bill Fraser, the opposition MLA for Miramichi-Bay du Vin, were both out in front of Arbec with protesters.

“We wrote you a cheque for $15.3-million. You need to respect the people of the Miramichi, you need to respect the local workers. We need work here in New Brunswick,” said Fraser. “We don’t want to ship people in here from Quebec or any other province.”

However, Arbec is acting in accordance with an agreement signed by the province in 2008. That deal allows Quebec construction companies to bid on contracts in New Brunswick, and vice-versa.

Arbec’s parent company, Jolina Capital Inc., is also based in Quebec.

The situation has left plenty of New Brunswickers wondering how cost-effective it is for the company to bring in new workers rather than hire from the mill’s backyard.

Both Fraser and Stewart say they’ll be raising the issue with the premier.

Arbec did not return calls from Global News seeking comment.

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