Steelworkers call for government intervention to save Mackenzie jobs and stop logs from by-passing community


    MACKENZIE, BC, May 23 /CNW/ - On Friday United Steelworkers (USW) Wood
Council Chair Bob Matters spoke at a gathering of over 1,000 people rallying
to save forest industry jobs in this northern Interior community, joining a
list of some 20 speakers which included BC NDP leader Carole James, NDP Forest
Critic Bob Simpson, CEP National President Dave Coles, PPWC President Jim
King, USW Local 1-424 executive board members Alf Wilkins, USW Local 1-424
forest worker transition representative Terry Tate, and others.
    The crowd, which represented nearly 25 per cent of the community's
population, marshaled near the union hall in town and proceeded down Mackenzie
Boulevard to Centennial Drive and towards the rally site in the Alexander
Mackenzie mall parking lot.
    Matters said the BC government must intervene to re-establish an office
with the powers of the former Jobs Protection Commissioner, which it abolished
after taking power in 2001. He recounted how jobs at the former Evans Plywood
plant in Golden (now Louisiana Pacific LVL) were saved in the mid-90s when the
commissioner worked with an investor, the government, the community, and with
workers and their union to save the mill and community.
    Matters also took aim at Pat Bell, the MLA for Prince-George North and
Minister of Agriculture and Lands, who said that logs are not being exported
from the community while sawmill and pulp operations are down. Matters said
that workers and the union are going to hold the government accountable on
that issue now and into the future.
    Steelworker Alfr Wilkins read out a locally developed list of 11 demands,
which include tying timber to jobs in Mackenzie and restricting log exports
out of the area.
    Members of the crowd then proceeded to gather outside St. Peter's
Catholic Church where the BC Forestry Roundtable was holding a closed-door
session.
    Nearly 1,500 forest workers are unemployed in Mackenzie with the
indefinite closures of the AbitibitiBowater Site 1 and 2 sawmills and planers,
the AbitibiBowater paper mill, the Canfor sawmill and the Pope and Talbot pulp
mill.
    For every direct forest job in Mackenzie, three additional spin-off jobs
are created.
    A community rally also took place in Ft. St John on Thursday, where the
Roundtable was holding a closed-door meeting. The Pope and Talbot sawmill
there has also been shut down indefinitely.

    The USW represents more than 280,000 men and women working in all sectors
of the Canadian economy.




For further information: Bob Matters, (604) 683-1117