The union representing 600 workers at Tembec’s operations in Temiscaming, Que., will fight announced layoffs taking effect June 20.

Roger Gauthier, president of Unifor Local 233, said the cuts do not fall within the provisions of the collective agreement between Unifor and Tembec.

“We were told the move was to reduce costs . . . but based on our labour agreement, that is not a condition for layoffs,” he said.

The company announced Monday it will eliminate 24 positions on the Temiscaming fibreline operations team while five new operations positions will be created.

But Gauthier said layoffs can only come into effect for changes in technology or automation, for a total mill or departmental shutdown, for a temporary shutdown of operations, in response to an act of God, for administrative dismissal or for attrition following a voluntary departure.

The announcement, at the start of a series of three meetings between the company and the union, Gauthier said, was unexpected.

He said the meetings were to discuss measures to eliminate or reduce the number of arbitrations between the company and union, and “all of a sudden, at the start of the meeting, they announced they wanted to make these layoffs.”

He said vice-president of Temiscaming operations Dany Gagnon “said he wanted to respect the agreement” with the union, “but this is not respect.”

Gauthier said the union will contest the layoffs.

“They have to follow the conditions for (a workplace) reduction,” he said.

He said the job security provisions in the contract are a national requirement for Unifor.

“If that wasn’t in the contract, the national wouldn’t have approved it,” he said.

Gauthier said there are more meetings set for next week between the two sides, while the union will apply to go through an accelerated arbitration process in an attempt to have the issue resolved before the end of the year.

“They are going to have to step back from this,” he said. “We did not sign this. This is an issue of job security.”

Unifor Local 233 represents about 600 employees in operations, office and maintenance at Tembec operations in Temiscaming.

In an internal memo issued Monday, Gagnon said “that reorganizing the fibreline team and shipping services at the specialty cellulose plant has become necessary to provide more efficient, competitive and profitable operations.

“Effective June 20, this reorganization entails the elimination of 24 positions in operations and the creation of five new positions in operations; departures to retirement in the maintenance mechanical department will not be filled and seven electricians/instrumentation will be hired.”

He said management will work with the union on the changes.

Tembec vice-president of human resources and corporate affairs Linda Coates said the company is “obviously not of the same opinion” as the union.

“We have decided to meet again next week for two days to discuss these ongoing issues,” she said.

“Then we will see what comes out of that.”