BURNABY, B.C.– In an uncertain and challenging environment, the United Steelworkers union (USW) commends the B.C. government’s commitment of significant investments in coming years in the priorities of working people, including in health care, mental health, housing, affordability and the largest-ever investment in infrastructure.
“The government has committed $37.5 billion in infrastructure investments that will reflect Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals to hopefully ensure that, among other things, domestic materials will be used in public projects,” said USW Western Canada Director Scott Lunny.
The USW acknowledged commitments in the 2023 B.C. Budget for the mining sector, including $77 million and additional staff to speed up natural resource permitting processes, as well as $6 million to move forward on a critical minerals strategy for the province. Also, starting April 1, 2024, the Budget commits to a new B.C. output-based pricing system to replace the existing carbon tax for major export industries, like mining and smelting.
“B.C. has strong environmental standards and removing unnecessary delays in permitting and fast-tracking critical minerals projects will help deliver on quality, needed resource projects. The good-paying jobs that come with these projects provides stability and security for resource-dependent communities,” said Lunny.
The USW notes the Budget provides very little for the beleaguered forest sector. The Future Ready plan includes a new $39-million grant for short-term skills training in addition to the $180-million BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund, to help support innovation projects around the province.
“Hopefully some of these grants and funds can be targeted to our current members, many of whom feel vulnerable in their current jobs in the forests and mills, to up-skill and ensure they maintain employment in B.C.’s resource-dependent communities,” said USW Wood Council Chair, Jeff Bromley.
USW remains concerned that there is no urgency to stabilizing the primary forest sector. Close to 3,000 USW members faced layoff in recent months, including permanent/indefinite mill closures in Chetwynd and Houston.
“We can’t talk about new, higher-value, secondary and tertiary manufacturing jobs, without a strong, stable primary industry. When we lose jobs in resource-dependent communities, we lose capacity to move toward a strong, sustainable forest sector,” added Bromley.
“What is really missing is a forward-looking plan for B.C.’s natural resources sector,” said Lunny. “We need to see something that connects the current workforce to a thriving, sustainable industry in the future.”
USW represents 30,000 workers in British Columbia, including over 15,000 in the forest and mining sectors, and thousands in telecommunications, manufacturing, retail and the service sector. USW is the largest private-sector union in North America, with 850,000 members in Canada, the U.S. and Caribbean, including 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector across Canada.
Each year, thousands of workers choose to join the USW because of our strong track record in creating healthier, safer and more respectful workplaces and negotiating better working conditions and fairer compensation – including good wages, benefits and pensions.
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