By: The Working Forest Staff
KAMLOOPS, CFJC Today –Forestry workers are cautiously optimistic after the provincial government announced $69 million in funding to support forestry workers affected by permanent and indefinite mill closures.
Following yesterday’s (Sept. 17) announcement, United Steelworkers Local 1-417 president Marty Gibbons says forestry workers are waiting with bated breath to hear more details around who this will actually benefit.
“Last time this program was put out, it was called the Community Development Trust. And there were regulations on it, and it actually talked about who could apply, it was all forest workers, age, amount of money, and those details are still missing,” he says. “We’ve had a mill shut down in Clearwater, and a mill shut down in Chasm, and both of those plants received severance. Under the old program, they would be eliminated. So, at this point in time, we don’t even know what the effect of this program is going to be. If it’s only displaced workers, that really limits who can apply.”
Gibbons says in order to combat a decline in the forest industry, planning needs to go beyond worker assistance.
“We’re a renewable resource. People are treating us like the forest industry has died. As we speak, trees are growing. We will be here long term, but right now the government needs to take a serious look at how the forest practices are going on, and the stumpage rates that we’re charging.”
Alongside stumpage and forest practices, Gibbons notes the softwood lumber agreement negotiations with the United States have not been helping the industry.
“The Conservatives talk about what the Liberals have done, but the Conservatives were in power a long time before the Liberals, and actually signed one of these agreements. I think all politicians need to stop this left or right BS, and they need to start working for communities and workers.”
The BC Government says the funding announced will be allocated towards early retirement bridging, wildfire prevention, skills training, and job placement coordination.
See more HERE.