03/25/2012 01:51 EDT | Updated 05/25/2012 05:12 EDT

White Birch employees accept concessions to save jobs

Employees at the White Birch paper plant in Quebec have voted to accept their insolvent employer's final offer.

Seventy-nine per cent of the workers at the Stadacona mill supported the proposal which includes significant concessions, but may mean they’ll keep their jobs.

Significant concessions

The offer will cut pay by 10 per cent and reduce annuities for retirees by 30 per cent and by 55 per cent for current workers.

"I think it's a tragedy we experienced tonight, because we voted for something terrible," said Danielle Beaudoin, whose husband also works at the plant.

Other workers said they were happy to see a deal reached, even if it meant giving up pay.

"I’m satisfied,” said Vincent Viel, one of the 600 workers who voted on the offer. “After three months out of work, we all need to start working again.”

Renaud Gagné, vice-president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union for the Quebec region, said that there is still no guarantee plant will re-open, but the deal was their only hope.

"Workers have sort of bought a lottery ticket on the chance they might save their jobs. Nobody is happy about it," he added.

The plant shut its doors in December and, after a majority of workers rejected the company's first offer, White Birch announced in January it would be closed permanently.

Other workers vote this week

The workers at the plant in Rivière-du-Loup will vote on White Birch’s latest offer Monday.

Employees in Gatineau will do the same on Tuesday.

A monitor's report filed March 15 by bankruptcy trustee Ernst & Young stated, “White Birch is of the view that Stadacona could re-open within one month following confirmation of a settlement with [the union].”

The company was the second-largest newsprint manufacturer in North America when it filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2010.