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Resolute Forest reaches contract deals with 1,500 workers at 4 US mills

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MONTREAL - Resolute Forest Products Inc. (TSX: RFP), the company being targeted by Unifor in pattern bargaining with forestry companies in Eastern Canada, has reached five-year master collective agreement covering some 1,500 unionized workers in the United States.

Employees voted have overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement at mills in Augusta, Ga; Calhoun, Tenn.; Catawba, S.C., and Coosa Pines, Ala., Resolute said Monday.

"We're very pleased to have quickly reached an agreement with union leadership and members to ensure we remain a competitive employer, but also one that maintains its competitive edge," president and CEO Richard Garneau said.

The workers are represented by the United Steelworkers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the U.S. and Canada (UA).

Resolute said the agreement "improves wages in each of its five years" although a company news release did not provide details.

The four mills, together with the company's other U.S. pulp and paper operations — none of which has an expiring collective agreement — represent almost half of Resolute's pulp and paper production capacity.

In Canada, the national president of Unifor said last week that Resolute had been chosen by the union as the lead company in contract talks involving the pulp and paper industry in Eastern Canada.

Jerry Dias said he wants to use the upcoming talks this spring to begin a debate about the future of the forestry sector and to regain ground lost by workers during the recession.

"There's no question that we're going to talk about reversal of concessions,'' Diaz said.

Negotiations with Resolute will help establish a pattern agreement for some 10,000 Unifor members at companies across the sector in Eastern Canada.

Resolute owns or operates over 40 pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities in the United States, Canada and South Korea, and power generation assets in Canada.

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