Letter from USW District 6

Jan 27, 2012

To the Editor:

On behalf of tens of thousands of Steelworker members in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, I extend our deepest sympathy for the horrific circumstances that have been thrust upon our members, their families and their communities as a result of the explosion at the Babine Forest Products sawmill. We offer heartfelt condolences to the families who may have lost loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the workers who have been injured; we wish all of them a full and speedy recovery.

Our Union's deeply imbedded history in health and safety stems from the ever present danger that is inherent in many of our workplaces. We strive to make them safe so that workers can return home to their families in the same condition as when they left them. When disaster strikes, as it did on Friday, the ripples it spreads reach far and wide. It leaves children and families shattered, workplaces broken and communities devastated. Once the workers have been tended to and their families supported, we urge the government to ensure that the mill is rebuilt and re-opened.

In Northern Ontario we have witnessed the devastation of far too many small communities when the main employer shuts down. All too often in those communities it has been the forestry industry that has left workers and communities behind as the raw logs that use to be milled here are shipped to other countries to be milled and finished. The workers and the Burns Lake community deserve as much as possible to have the pieces of their lives put back together; this means that a mill needs to be re-raised out of the ashes that now smoulder amongst the rubble of the mill.

Unfortunately disasters are not always avoidable. What a government does in the face of it however, is completely in its hands. We are hopeful that in the near future we will see a comprehensive plan that responds to both the immediate needs of these workers and the future needs of this community; one that has a new state of the art mill as part of the Burns Lake landscape. Anything less will be a poor response to the devastation caused by this horrific explosion.

In Solidarity,
Wayne Fraser
Director, District 6, United Steelworkers

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