TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO                                The Neucel Specialty Cellulose pulp mill in Port Alice has remained dormant since 2015. According to the union president, on Feb. 27, the remaining workers were all laid off.

TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO The Neucel Specialty Cellulose pulp mill in Port Alice has remained dormant since 2015. According to the union president, on Feb. 27, the remaining workers were all laid off.

Battered Port Alice pulp mill suddenly lays off remaining workers

All Neucel Specialty Cellulose employees working at the pulp mill were told to go home on Feb. 27.

Those few people still working at Port Alice’s long-dormant pulp mill have been dealt another blow.

Neucel Specialty Cellulose sent them home yesterday, allegedly with no written notice.

514 Union President Don Vye told the North Island Gazette that all the union employees still working at the North Island pulp mill — about 20 people tasked with maintaining the mill’s assets — received word of the layoffs verbally on Feb. 27.

“All I know is they were sent home yesterday afternoon,” said Vye, who added it was rather sudden because he was at the site in the morning talking to vice-president of human resources, Warren Beatty, “and he mentioned nothing about it.”

“There was a fella who showed up here from China and everyone was sent home,” Vye said.

Vye added he would have more details after he meets with the company later today.

RELATED: Workers called back to long-dormant Port Alice pulp mill

Neucel Specialty Cellulose makes up 70 per cent of the community’s tax base and is owned by the Canadian arm of a Chinese company called Fulida. The mill still hasn’t paid its taxes, which were due back in July of 2018, totalling around a million dollars.

The mill’s property is the same as any other property when it comes to unpaid taxes. If the taxes continue to go unpaid, then the current taxes become arrears the following year. If the arrears continue to go unpaid, then they become delinquent the next year. Properties with unpaid delinquent taxes are then sold at a tax sale on the last Monday of September.

RELATED: Pulp mill fails to pay taxes, Port Alice closes arena

Back in February 2015, Neucel Specialty Cellulose placed the mill into a “temporary” production curtailment following three consecutive years of unfavourable pulp prices, combined with the high cost of oil, energy energy consumption and operating chemicals, as well as an unfavourable low U.S. exchange rate.

The mill has remained in curtailment ever since.

The smallest of the North Island’s three tri-port communities, Port Alice has a population has a population of about 700 and an economy built around the mill, which, when operating, employed about 400 people.