BC government's Special Legislative Committee on Timber Supply

Aug 24, 2012

For Immediate Release

August 15, 2012

The United Steelworkers are supporting the report of the BC government's Special Legislative Committee on Timber Supply, which was released today. Generally speaking, the union says the report supports its call for investment in healthy forests, a focus on ensuring manufacturing of BC timber resources, and a formal process to deal with workers and communities in crisis.

"We feel the report of the Special Legislative Committee is thorough and we congratulate them for their work on this complicated and highly-politicized issue. We are pleased that the committee understands the importance of the working forest and forest industry jobs and, in particular that they have made recommendations to help secure fibre to ensure that there is, once again, an operating sawmill in Burns Lake following the tragic explosion of the Babine sawmill," said USW Wood Council Chair Bob Matters. "However, despite supporting the report, we do feel that it is an indictment of the forest policy of our current government over the past decade."

The union specifically cites the fact that the Legislative Committee report notes that proper timber inventories haven't been done, and that many of the recommendations could have been implemented months ago in the case of Burns Lake had there still be a formal process to deal with communities in crisis, such as the former Jobs Protection Commissioner.

"Unlike some observers, when there is a tragedy in a community like the explosion of the Babine mill, the MLAs on the committee, our members and most British Columbians agree that there is a role for government to help mitigate the economic and social impacts," said USW Local 1-424 president, Frank Everitt, who represents the workers who were thrown out of work when the mill was destroyed. "We are pleased that some measures are being taken to secure fibre to help ensure a rebuild of the mill, but again this process took far too long for our members and the communities involved."

In particular, the union is supportive of recommendations to: update timber inventories; better manage "not sufficiently restocked" (NSR) areas and increase fertilization and silviculture to increase harvestable timber volumes; to encourage the harvest of economically marginal timber areas; provide timber and opportunities to First Nations; and to re-establish monitoring committees to oversee and update Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) following a proper, inclusive process at local level.

"As a province, we need to do a better job of dealing with forest health, silviculture, timber supply and protecting communities facing crisis," said Matters. "For years we have been urging this government to re-institute a jobs and community protection commissioner, to invest more in healthy forests, especially in light of the Mountain Pine Beetle, and ensure that British Columbia resources are used to support and sustain British Columbia communities."

The United Steelworkers are also encouraged that the committee made recommendations that look to the future, such as increased skills training for the resource industry workforce and protecting the working forest through better forest health programs and reduce wild fire risk.

For more information, please contact:

Bob Matters, USW Wood Council Chair (604) 996-4476

Frank Everitt, President, USW Local 1-424 (250) 960-9809