The retirees of the Quebec White Birch paper mill failed in their last attempt to recover the sums lost following the renegotiation of their pension plan with the Unifor union which represented them.
The final appeal initiated by the group of retirees who had launched a lawsuit against the union that defended them was not upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday morning.
Retired from White Birch
“It’s a great disappointment,” admits Gilles Bédard, who was at the head of the Regroupement des employees retired de White Birch.
In 2010, White Birch filed for protection under the Creditors Arrangement Act. A few months later, however, an agreement was reached in court to keep the plant open subject to the signing of new collective agreements which included the abandonment of the old pension plan.
After two years of negotiations, White Birch had sent a “final” offer which provided for the termination of the pension plans in force. This agreement meant for retirees a loss of about 30% of their pension, but allowed current employees to keep their jobs.
Retirees believe they have been kept out of negotiations between Unifor and BD White Birch Investment for the resumption of operations at the Stadacona plant.
“We were ignored by our union,” Mr. Bédard still believes, even if the courts have decided otherwise.
The White Birch Retired Employees Group, which represented 456 people, claimed damages of $ 68 million against the union.
The motion to institute proceedings was dismissed by the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal before the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday.
If “legally there is nothing more to do, according to Me Jocelyn Morency who has been defending these retirees for a decade, what remains to be done is political action”.
Change the law
There is a hole in the law that must be closed by the legislator in order to protect retirees.
“Make a law to protect them. We are the retirees of tomorrow, ”argues the lawyer.
“This is a debate that must not end, even if it is over for us at the legal level”, also believes Mr. Bédard who retired in 2001.
Gilles Bédard says he has received a lot of sympathy from politicians, but this listening does not turn into concrete action to change the law.
The average age of White Birch retirees is 78, while around 150 employees have died since the litigation began.
“There was suffering among these people,” regrets Mr. Bédard.