Displaced British Columbia sawmill workers could receive $75,000 each

Photo By Conifex

BRITISH COLUMBIA - The British Columbia government has set aside $69 million to assist the province's thousands of displaced and laid off sawmill workers. Programs offered include retirement bridging, forestry worker job placement, community support grants, and short-term forest employment.
Up to $75,000 is being offered in the retirement bridging program. To qualify, workers must:
  • Be at least 55 years old
  • Work full-time 
  • Have been employed at a sawmill or two consecutive years
  • Have been displaced on or after May 1, 2019 due to either a permanent closure, indefinite closure, or a curtailment of at least four months

A forest employment program will aid contractors to bid on short-term employment in areas negatively impacted by a mill closure/curtailment.

Within the next few weeks, job placement offices will open in five interior communities hardest hit by mill closures: Fort St. James, Fort St. John, Mackenzie, 100 Mile House and Clearwater, says the province on its new web portal. Once open, these offices will match up workers with new opportunities by assessing their needs and goals.

Softwood lumber import tariffs of around 21 percent were levied onto Canada last year - severely affecting the country's forest products industry. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) told MarketWatch that those tariffs are restructuring the entire lumber global supply chain - incentivizing U.S. buyers to import from overseas rather than ship lumber across the Canadian border.
U.S. production has also ramped up, surpassing Canadian production in 2018.
Canadian sawmills have been plagued with shutdowns, curtailments, and layoffs. Many of the country's biggest players have taken a hit - including West Fraser, Canfor, and Conifex - and restricted lumber production, with West Fraser and Canfor curtailing production more than once. Thirteen indefinite closures are also ongoing - affecting around 1,000 workers. If you add in curtailments, around 3,000 workers have been affected.
British Columbia - Canada's largest lumber-producing province - exported just over 514 million board feet of lumber to the U.S. in October 2018, down from 645 million board feet from the same time 2017.
Canada has never been happy with these tariffs, fighting them every step of the way.

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About the author
Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected].