West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. (West Fraser) has announced the permanent closure of its Fraser Lake Sawmill in British Columbia, affecting the employment of 140 members of the United Steelworkers union (USW).
Jeff Bromley, USW Wood Council Chair, expressed concern over the closure, emphasizing the ongoing struggles faced by USW members and the local community since the 2015 shutdown of the Endako Moly Mine.
“The closure announcement by West Fraser is a terrible blow to the USW members, their families and the local community especially for a community struggling since their mine closed,” said Bromley.
While West Fraser expects to minimize the impact on affected members by offering employment opportunities at other company operations, the decision to close the sawmill is the result of the company’s inability to access economically viable fibre in the region.
Bromley called on the government to ensure stability for B.C.’s Forest Industry, which supports 10,000 USW members and thousands of others in communities across the province. He highlighted the need for access to a sustainable working forest to preserve these jobs.
“The thousands of high-paying, rural community-supporting jobs are disappearing right before our eyes. It’s time for our province to decide if it wants to have a vibrant forest industry that supports good-paying jobs, Indigenous people and local economies,” said Bromley.
“We have big challenges posed by uncertain fibre supply, regulatory uncertainties, and escalating fibre unit costs that must be urgently addressed to sustain an industry capable of producing value-added, carbon-sink products. The government needs to make this a priority now,” he added.
Since 2015, 13 USW-represented operations have vanished, resulting in the loss of over 2,000 direct jobs. In addition, two pulp mills and one sawmill in Mackenzie have closed, contributing to the decline of good-paying jobs that support communities.
The USW represents 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector across Canada and is the largest private-sector Union in North America, with 850,000 members in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.
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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