Forest workers to contact all MLAs over log exports and forest policy
BURNABY, BC, March 23 /CNW/ - Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) in
BC's forest-sector will start lobbying provincial MLAs next week to address
the looming crisis in BC's number one industry.
The basis of the lobby effort is a USW position paper, "The Time to Act
is Now: Campaign to Restore the BC Forest Sector".
"Our aim is first and foremost to make sure that our elected
representatives understand the serious situation in forest-based communities
and the impact it's having on workers, their families and the overall health
of their communities," said USW Western Canada Director Steve Hunt.
"While we have proposed some solutions, we are fundamentally asking the
MLAs to understand the urgency and join our call for a more open debate on
forest policy. Right now, the discussions are limited to a few people in
government and a handful of corporate executives."
The union's paper outlines the magnitude of the crisis, including: the
massive exports of raw logs that have helped force the closure of
39 manufacturing facilities since 2001; the loss of nearly 20,000 direct jobs
in the industry; the growing uncertainty around the future of areas impacted
by the mountain pine beetle; chronic under-investment, particularly in key
segments of the industry such as value-added manufacturing; the severing of
any link between timber harvesting and community benefits.
"Our major problem is rampant raw-log exports, even when local sawmills
say that they haven't enough logs to run," said USW Wood Council Chair Bob
Matters. "Log exports are up 10 times as high as they were a decade ago. We're
shipping more raw logs than we have since the Second World War -- yet the
government hasn't done anything but talk."
The USW also points to the continued horrific safety record in BC's
woods, mills and in the transportation of forest products.
"Although some steps have been taken on safety, we will also release a
report card next week that shows systemic problems in the industry are still
causing accidents and fatalities," added Hunt.
USW members have a history of successfully lobbying legislatures and
Parliament. Over a 10-year period, for instance, USW lobbied federal
politicians and ultimately won passage of Bill C-45 (also known as the Westray
Bill), which makes corporations, their directors and executives criminally
accountable for putting workers' lives at risk.
The union also conducted a concerted lobby against the Harper-Bush lumber
deal and a lobby last year in Victoria calling on the government to conduct
the independent safety review of the forest sector currently being conducted
by the Auditor General's office.
For further information:
For further information: Scott Lunny, (604) 329-5308