Raw logs exports cause another B.C. mill closure and 300 jobs lost
Date: Wednesday, January 24 2007
[Surely this is a failure of the system under which we live.]
Union battles to save lumber mill: Western Forest Products says nothing can be done to keep mill open
January 20, 2007
The United Steelworkers has taken out half-page ads in local newspapers calling for the government to step in and stop the closing of a New Westminster lumber mill, which would mean the loss of 300 jobs.
But the mill's owner, Western Forest Products, says nothing can change between now and Feb. 7 -- the scheduled closing date -- that will keep the mill open.
The advertisement says Western makes more than $1 million a month at the mill, but can't find enough logs to run the operation.
"Meanwhile, the B.C. government allows five million cubic meters of raw logs to be exported a year -- enough to run 10 coastal mills," the ad says.
The ad calls on Premier Gordon Campbell and Forests Minister Rich Coleman to act fast to impose higher fees on exported logs to save the jobs.
"There's two and a half freighters loaded every week down at the Surrey docks of logs being exported, and those logs go virtually past the mill," said Brian Harder, president of the USW local that represents the mill's workers.
If those logs stayed in the country, Harder is confident the mill would remain open.
A report commissioned by the government and released last month has called for higher fees on exported logs so that it is no longer more profitable to export logs than process them. The province has asked stakeholders to provide comments on the report before the end of the month.
But Harder said the government has to act sooner if the New Westminster mill is to be saved.
"If they make a decision early, they can intervene and protect this mill and keep the jobs here in Canada," Harder said. "Because nobody is going to come around and rebuild the sawmill [once it's closed]."
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 24, 2007]