The union representing over 450 employees at Dryden’s Domtar say contract negotiations have hit an impasse and strike action is possible by early 2023.

Unifor, which represents production, maintenance, office, woodland harvesting, chipping and trucking staff in the Local 105 and Local 324 unions, says they’ve applied for conciliation after contract talks broke down this week with Domtar.

“We have been bargaining for new pulp mill and woodlands deals with Domtar over the last two months, but unfortunately, these negotiations have now reached an impasse over some unanticipated hurdles at the local level,” explains National Representative, Stephen Boon.

Boon says negotiations have continued since workers’ contracts expired on August 31, 2022.

“We will make a final attempt to bridge the remaining gaps,” adds Boon. “If conciliated talks fail, we will be moving ahead with membership strike votes in preparation for potential strike action in early 2023.”

This comes shortly after Unifor secured a new deal for over 150 mill workers at the Ear Falls Sawmill, which brought wage increases of between 24 and 36 per cent depending on position, a 25 per cent increase in pension contributions and many more benefits for staff.

Domtar employees are also keeping an eye on their futures at the mill after ownership changed hands twice over the last two years.

In early 2021, Domtar was purchased by the Paper Excellence Group out of British Columbia in a $3 billion US deal. This came as Domtar reported a net loss of $29 million through the first quarter of the year after a $59 million loss in the last quarter of 2020.

Then in July 2022, Paper Excellence announced a $2.7 billion deal to purchase Resolute Forest Products. But due to regulatory requirements associated with the deal, as the two companies are the largest pulp and paper manufacturers in Canada, the company plans to sell their mills in Dryden and Espanola.

Domtar leadership expects the deal to go through in early 2023 after approvals. As it stands, the third-party buyer hasn’t been found yet.