Union disappointed in mill closure

Reaction pours in to announcement of permanent mill closure in Canal Flats.

  • Sep. 9, 2015 5:00 p.m.

Trevor CrawleyCarolyn Grant

The Canal Flats saw mill will close permanently in early November following an announcement from the company on Wednesday.

“Our CEO and members of the senior management team were in Canal Flats today to announce the permanent closure of the facility,” said Corrine Stavness. “While we understand how difficult this will be for our employees and the community of Canal Flats, recent downturns in the oil and gas and lumber markets that the mill served combined with a lack of economically available fibre for the mill have brought operating losses we can no longer sustain.

“Moving to permanent closure means that the employees impacted by this announcement will be entitled to severance. We expect the last day of operations for the mill to be November 9, 2015. We will be establishing a transition office to help impacted employees, all of whom will be offered opportunities to transfer to other Canfor divisions.”

The announcement comes after layoffs in May that cut 81 jobs from operations that reduced the plant to one shift. Closing permanently will affect the remaining 70 union jobs and 10 management positions, according to Doug Singer, president of the USW Local 1-405.

“We’re very disappointed,” Singer said. “Four months after a massive layoff that they’ve now announced a closure of the Canal Flats operation. We’re extremely disappointed the company didn’t give it more time to see if it could be a success.

“We understand there are lots of pressures on the market, but four months is not a lot of time to see whether this is a workable solution or not, and things at the plant level seemed to be going fairly well.”

The jobs in the plant ripple throughout the region as employees live in Canal Flats or commute from places such as Cranbrook, Kimberley, Radium and Invermere.

Canal Flats CAO Brian Woodward said the closure announcement came as a shock.

“The mill is by far our largest employer,” he said. “We have so many questions. Are they going to sell it?  At this point in time we are organizing a transition team with the Ministry of Jobs and the Village will participate in that process. But we have no answers. There are issues of taxation, and there are at least 30 families living in Canal Flats affected by this. Will they retire? Be bought out?

“We just don’t know. It’s a bit of a shock for everyone.”

In it’s current existence, the mill has been in operation since 1969, however, there has been a mill in the Canal Flats area for the last 100 years.

With files from Carolyn Grant