B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks with unemployed forest industry contractors attending rally at B.C. legislature, Dec. 11, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

More than 200 Vancouver Island forest contractors and suppliers gathered at the B.C. legislature Wednesday to call for relief for an industry that has left them out of work for months.

Many have been idled by the United Steelworkers strike against Western Forest Products that has dragged on since July 1. Some contractors say the NDP government’s increased penalties for wood waste have made it too costly to operate, and provincial stumpage for Crown timber remains too high.

Bill Coates, a contractor from Port Alberni who organized the rally, emerged from a meeting with Forests Minister Doug Donaldson after people had waited outside for more than an hour.

“We came to Victoria to have our voices heard on very short notice, and we were heard,” Coates told the crowd, who cheered and applauded speakers who told of family struggles as Christmas approaches. “What we’ve seen is our industry down and our personal taxes up, and we need to get back to work.”

Mediator Vince Ready is scheduled to meet with the union and Western Forest Products management Thursday to deal with outstanding issues including shift schedule changes, long-term disability payments and drug and alcohol testing.

RELATED: Steelworkers, Western to return to mediated talks

RELATED: Interior forest aid on the way, Donaldson says

Geoff Brown, also a contractor, said stumpage rates and harvesting restrictions have affected equipment suppliers, foresters and engineers as well as loggers.

“They’re basically charging triple what the waste penalties were,” Brown said. “Costs have gone through the roof. We can’t operate.”

The rally took place as Premier John Horgan and the NDP cabinet were wrapping up their weekly meeting. Speakers called for Horgan or any government representative to come out and speak with them, but they were disappointed.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and forests critic John Rustad addressed the rally, calling for more government action. Rustad said the government’s refusal to change stumpage rate setting from the current quarterly system to monthly, to reflect lumber prices, ignores the fact that Alberta sets stumpage monthly without sparking protests from U.S. lumber producers.

In November, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett asked Donaldson about a letter to Finance Minister Carole James from Sigurdson Forest Products of Williams Lake, calling for a delay in stumpage payments. The company had just laid off 50 people, with 90 left working in its sawmill and planer, as it struggles with loss of timber from fire that caused it to miss the period of high lumber prices that preceded the current downturn.

“We currently owe approximately $4.6 million in outstanding stumpage,” president Brian Sigurdson wrote.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford seniors’ employment program moves online

Archway Community Services now accepting enrolment for next session

Man from Mexico reported missing in Abbotsford

Antonio Fernandez, 29, was last seen on Monday, May 25

Crane truck topples over at Abbotsford courthouse construction site

Nobody injured in incident on Trethewey Street and George Ferguson Way

Board chair says Chilliwack trustee’s censure results from ‘egregious’ breach of ethics

Four forms of reprimand for Barry Neufeld after his Facebook post about Dr. Theresa tam

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

$24M lottery ticket bought in Aldergrove by soon-to-be millionaire

Wednesday night’s Lotto 6/49 draw revealed a ticket worth millions was purchased in Aldergrove

PHOTOS: Loved ones reunite at an oasis on closed U.S.-Canada border in Surrey

Officials closed the park in mid-March over coronavirus concerns

B.C.’s labour minister should look at pandemic’s financial carnage amid minimum wage increase

The timing couldn’t be worse for any government decision that drives up costs for business, writes Jock Finlayson

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

Death toll rises in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

Number has risen to 22, making it the worst to date in B.C.

Fraser Valley libraries to offer contactless hold pick-ups

FVRL Express — Click, Pick, Go service to be offered at all 25 locations starting June 1

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Most Read