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Union responds to Canfor layoffs

Transition office set up as union meeting with Canfor to iron out issues.

A number of options, including transfers and severance, are being pursued by the union representing workers who are affected by layoffs at the Canal Flats operation.

According to the United Steelworkers Local 1-405, 81 jobs are affected after Canfor announced the layoffs last week as the company moves from two shifts to one.

"It's devastating for the members and the families in the communities for sure. We're working hard right now with Canfor to try and address all the issues and make sure we do everything we can," said Doug Singer, president of the USW Local 1-405.

According to a Canfor corporate spokesperson, the available fibre supply in the region is not sufficient to support the processing capacity, which necessitates the reduction.

Singer said the union knew the company was doing a fibre supply review but didn't know what the outcome was going to be until the shift reduction was announced.

"They've got the Radium and Elko operations where they've put a lot of money into, so they are using a lot more fibre in those mills than they've used in the past," Singer said.

The USW Local 1-405 president also lamented the exportation of raw logs outside B.C.

"It is very unfortunate that fibre supply and the increased cost of the new market based on stumpage system has resulted in the loss of this many members' jobs," Singer said. "We continued in the province of B.C. to allow massive amounts of log exports, although there are mills that do not have enough timber to run the operations to full capacity."

Canfor and the union began meeting last Friday to deal with issues such as severance, transfers, the impact on the employee's pension, bumping and moving costs. A transition office has been established at the Canal Flats operation which will be staffed by management and union members to assist employees with any information and assistance they require.

All 81 employees affected by the layoffs will be offered other positions within Canfor, as per the announcement last week. While there will be opportunities to transfer to Radium and Elko operations, other positions will be open across the province.

However, Singer doesn't think there will be many local jobs available.

"We don't think it's going to be huge, so it's clearly not going to address the 81 layoffs," Singer said. "That's just in this local area; there is the opportunity for local employees to transfer to other divisions of Canfor."


Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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