Ex-Eurocan employees win challenge over severance pay

Nine former Eurocan employees in Kitimat have won a challenge against the company over entitlement to severance pay.

Nine former employees of Eurocan Pulp and Paper have recently won an arbitration worth a total of $1 million.

The win, which came following a lengthy fight between their union Unifor Local 298 and 127, and the company, effectively upheld the right of the employees to revoke their retirements.

The nine employees had applied to retire, ahead of knowledge that the Eurocan mill was closing down.

Once the company announced the plan, including a severance package for employees, the nine employees — eight of them applying for special retirement funding through the province for forestry workers — cancelled their retirement due take advantage of the more generous severance offer.

However the company subsequently denied their efforts to ‘un-retire’.

Arbitrator Daniel Ish oversaw the arguments in this final hearing.

Before this the union had won their argument in 2010 in front of an arbitrator, and that ruling was upheld by the British Columbia Labour Relations Board.

An allowed second review of the decision, however, overturned it later in the year and a new hearing was set for an adjudicator.

In all, this matter went through seven decisions before settling on this latest one, which was made at the end of January.

Central in the arguments was the fact that Eurocan had accepted a revoked retirement notice from two past employees.

The company argued that those past circumstances were not like the nine being argued for during the closure.

In the case of the nine union members, with the plant closing, their positions wouldn’t be required, as the positions would be for the past employees.

The arbitrator’s 28 page-long document outlining the arguments and reasons eventually concludes the employees had a right to revoke their retirement.

Part of that is due to the fact that none had a reason to believe that the motive for returning would have an impact on their ability to cancel retirement, referring to the fact that past employees had revoked their retirement.

“We were fighting for retirees who were short-changed,” said Unifor Western Director Scott Doherty in a release following the decision.

“This ruling confirms that workers have the right to rescind notice of retirement.”