POLITICS
10/06/2011 06:23 EDT | Updated 12/06/2011 05:12 EST

Union attempt to shame Brookfield Asset into restoring Fraser pensions

Hundreds of retirees of Fraser Papers Inc. have joined togther in an organization hoping to shame the biggest shareholder of the now defunct company, Brookfield Asset Mangement Inc., into restoring their full pensions.

The Victims of Brookfield Association was officially launched at a news conference in Edmundston, N.B., on Thursday by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

The association brings together some 400 retirees each from former Fraser operations in Edmunston and Thurso, Que., who have lost between 30 and 40 per cent of their pensions as a result of moves made under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

"We're hoping that by launching the association, Victims of Brookfield, that we might find other vicdtims everywhere in Canada as well," union representative Sebastien Bezeau said in a telephone interview.

Although individual situations vary, Bezeau said most of the retirees he has spoken with have lost about $1,000 a month in pensions as a result of provisions of the restructing that have been forced on them after Fraser filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

"You're talking about basic necessities," he said of the loss of income. "They actually have to rethink what they can do this month or next month and how is going to affect their budget. So their lives are just turned upside down."

Bezeau said in that in the negotiations over the restructuring, the union was able to get Brookfield to keep the Edmundston plant open — it now operates under the Twin Rivers Papers banner — and kept what he described as a "small" legal window open to challenge provisions of the reorganization.

However, the main thrust at the moment is what he called a "political campaign" involving protests and social media like Twitter and Facebook, Bezeau said.

"So it's really combining two campaigns togheter, one on the legal front, one on political action, but we want to put more emphasis on the political action because, as you know, on the legal front, it can take 10, 15, 20 years. We don't have that much time, we're taking about retirees mostly."

"We think that if we can affect their (Brookfield's) image and if we can put some pressure on their shareholders, that eventually they come to the conclusion that OK, let's give those retirees what they want. What, $200 million that will shut them up and we'll get rid of them. That's nothing for Brookfield that's worth billions and billions of dollars."

"And that's why the political campaign is even more important thant the legal campaign itself," he added.

Among other things, the newly formed retirees association will be sending a delegation from Edmunston and Thurso to the Occupy Toronto rally planned for the Bay Street financial district on Oct. 15.

"Actually Brookfield Asset Management is located downtown Toronto so its a perfect liocation for us to be at," Bezeau said.