Forest-sector unions call for action on growing crisis



    VANCOUVER, June 4 /CNW/ - With BC losing a major sawmill, a paper machine
and more than 600 good-paying jobs in just two weeks, forest-sector unions are
calling on Premier Gordon Campbell for action.
    United Steelworkers' (USW) Western Canada Director Steve Hunt, Pulp,
Paper and Woodworkers of Canada President Jim King and Communications, Energy
and Paperworkers' Western Region Vice-President Don MacNeil have called on the
BC premier to deal with the growing forest-sector crisis.
    In Coastal BC, the union leaders are calling for action on the massive
flood of log exports, which is undermining manufacturing while some companies
make millions exporting raw logs to sawmills in Asia and the United States.
    And, they note, a proposed tax on exports will only work if it applies
equally to all logs shipped out of BC rather than only those from public lands
as indicated by Forest Minister Rich Coleman. Ninety per cent of log exports
come from private lands, so a tax on public-lands logs alone won't work.
    "British Columbians want to know that BC logs are creating BC jobs in BC
communities, not providing benefits to a few companies and foreign sawmills,"
they said in a letter sent to Campbell on Monday.
    Both the Coastal and Interior industry are in crisis. The recently-closed
Canfor sawmill in Mackenzie and the Catalyst paper machine in Port Alberni are
the 40th and 41st first major closures in the wood and paper manufacturing
sector since 2001. The three unions are demanding a summit on the crisis,
including the threat to jobs and communities raised by the mountain
pine-beetle infestation.
    The three warn that "forest-based communities all over this province are
threatened by the failure of corporate and government policy to deliver jobs
and other economic benefits in exchange for the public timber that companies
are allowed to harvest."
    Noting that the root of the problem is a long-term failure of companies
to either invest in new plant and equipment or diversify industry output, the
unions also urge the province to create a community investment fund using
receipts from the additional timber that firms are harvesting under the
so-called beetle uplift, as well as a portion of the border tax on lumber
exports.
    "People in the province's resource-based communities are suffering and
anxious. How many more Mackenzies, how many more Port Albernis?"





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