The unexpected closure of the paper production operations at the Howe Sound Mill owned by Paper Excellence could cost more than 130 jobs, says Unifor Local 1119.

“The announcement was a shock to us all,” said Unifor Local 1119 President Don Rheaume. “We’re very disappointed and will work hard to help our members who are displaced by the closure.”

Rheaume says the union will be working with Paper Excellence to establish a Labour Adjustments Committee to mitigate the impact on the mill’s workers. He said that he hopes to secure severance packages, early retirement packages, and re-training opportunities for those affected.

“The management has indicated that there are many options on the table, and we’re going to explore all of them,” said Rheaume.

The Howe Sound Mill near Gibsons, BC also operates a power plant and produces pulp. Paper Excellence says that the timing of today’s announcement is related to the dwindling supply of water in Lake Seven, which feeds the mill’s paper, pulp, and power operations. By closing the paper functions as soon as possible, the company hopes to stretch the water supply for pulp and power to avoid temporary closures of those sections of the mill.

Affected members of Unifor Local 1119 will continue to work for the next 60 days and can potentially take a transfer to one of the other three pulp mills that Paper Excellence owns in BC.

Financial planning advisors will be on site to assist workers with the transition.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.