Over 450 employees at Dryden’s Domtar mill have new contracts to sign and ratify in the coming months – avoiding a potential strike in the new year.

Unifor says they’ve reached agreements on 3 tentative agreements covering all 450 forestry workers included in Domtar’s Local 105 and Local 324 Unions, which include production, maintenance, office, woodland harvesting, chipping and trucking staff – after talks broke down in November.

“We agreed to resume negotiations this week in an attempt to secure new deals prior to moving ahead with planned strike votes and conciliation through the Ontario Ministry of Labour early in the new year. We are pleased to confirm that 3 new tentative agreements were reached late Friday,” explained Unifor’s national representative, Stephen Boon.

Negotiations between the two parties began after the contracts expired on August 31, 2022.

"I commend the hard work and perseverance of both the Unifor Local 105 and 324 bargaining committees in securing major monetary and language improvements in these new contracts. I can confirm all 3 contracts achieve Unifor's Eastern Canada Pulp and Paper Pattern and we will be unanimously recommending acceptance at voting to be held on Tuesday and Thursday."

As Boon notes, details of the new deals are not being released pending membership meets tonight at the Unifor Hall in Dryden, with voting expected to take place Thursday night.

Earlier this year, 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.