Curbing Raw Log Exports, Boosting Manufacturing Jobs Require More Than Just Rhetoric

BURNABY, BC, Feb. 28, 2017 /CNW/ - Following the release of two Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C. Office (CCPA-BC) research papers that show surging exports of raw, unprocessed logs in British Columbia, the United Steelworkers (USW) says that all stakeholders – the provincial government, industry and our workers – need to consider the best way to reduce the export of raw logs, increase domestic sawmilling and value-added manufacturing, while ensuring loggers continue to work in our local communities.

"The issue isn't old growth or second growth or moratoriums," said USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt. "The real issue is a decade of neglect by our provincial government of our forest industry to the point that we aren't getting the maximum value added, and jobs, from our working forest."

USW says that regulatory and legislative changes brought in by the B.C. Liberals have dramatically weakened the industry, providing benefit to some companies, but leaving forest-dependent communities without the jobs and full economic benefits that should accompany timber harvesting.

"British Columbia is a world leader in protecting forests, most of which contain old-growth trees. What we need to focus on is ensuring that we get maximum value added and as many good, family-supporting jobs as we can from the remaining, working forest," Hunt said.

The USW points out that part of a successful industry is ensuring that the industry can't simply pick and choose the cream of the crop, but that we are able to harvest the whole profile of our working forest and find the maximum value use for each tree. While that means there will be some raw log exports, it also means there should be much higher levels of value-added manufacturing.

"The record levels of raw log exports are outrageous," said Hunt. "When the two biggest exporters of unprocessed logs don't have any manufacturing capacity, logs must be processed outside of Canada's borders. With the closure of over 100 wood-processing facilities in the last 20 years it is easy to see why jobs are being lost in our local communities."

"We need to find ways to recover our industry from the last 15 years, to gradually reduce our reliance on raw logs exports by re-building primary and secondary manufacturing capacity in B.C."

The USW has developed a program that includes: raising the fee-in-lieu of manufacturing charged on exported logs to the equivalent of the difference between the export and domestic log prices; to review and revamp stumpage to provide incentives for higher-value manufacturing to take place in the province; to create a workforce and community investment fund from softwood lumber border tax revenues and the fee-in-lieu of manufacturing to help develop the manufacturing sector; and for government to directly invest more in reforestation and skills training.

The United Steelworkers represents over 30,000 workers in British Columbia and is the major union representing loggers and millworkers in the province.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Stephen Hunt, USW District 3 Director, 604-683-1117, shunt@usw.ca; Scott Lunny, Assistant to the USW District 3 Director, 604-329-5308, slunny@usw.ca; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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