Steelworkers' program aims at immediate change in BC's forest industry



    NEW WESTMINSTER, BC, March 29 /CNW/ - The BC government can and should
take immediate steps to stop the bleeding in British Columbia's forest
industry, say leaders of the United Steelworkers (USW).
    On Saturday, Steelworkers released a 10-point plan aimed at getting the
industry back on its feet.
    "We need action right now," said USW Wood Council Chair Bob Matters.
"Forest-sector workers, our families and our communities cannot wait."
    Matters noted that laid-off Steelworkers recently lobbied the BC
government for action on a crisis that has destroyed 10,000 jobs since
October. However, almost all of the government MLAs either denied there is a
crisis, blamed all the industry's problems on economic conditions, suggested
workers wait until the results of Premier Gordon Campbell's recently-appointed
Forest Sector Round Table, or said they have no answers.
    "They seem not to have very many of their own ideas, so we're happy to
provide them with several," he said. "Steelworkers challenge them to adopt
them and bring in to legislation so we can start rebuilding the province's
most important industry."
    Steelworkers' proposals include: measures to cut log exports and
encourage more wood manufacturing in BC; reductions in the quantity of usable
logs left to rot in BC's forests; inducements to purchase new logging and
sawmill equipment; programs for worker training and skills upgrading and
better enforcement of safety standards in an industry where more than 20
workers are killed on the job and more than 90 severely injured annually.
    "These are our solutions. No one in government or industry seems to have
any ideas," said Matters. "We'll be forwarding them to the Round Table but we
would prefer to work with government to implement as soon as possible, seeing
as they seem to have so few of their own."
    The USW program was released at a "Grand Closing" Event for Canfor's
Panel & Fibre Division plant in New Westminster. The plant was closed in
December, ending 125 good-paying jobs, even though it produced eco-fibre, a
value-added, green product used to solidify roadbeds and slopes.
    "This product line is not dependent on the slumping US housing product.
It's green and it uses wood that would otherwise be burned or land-filled,"
said USW National Director. "For years we were told this is what we need to do
to ensure a future for the forest industry in BC, yet Canfor shut this
profitable plant down and sold its machines and patents to its largest
competitor while the Campbell government did nothing - even after the forest
minister promised to help.
    "What Canfor did was shameful; the government's inaction is equally
shameful."
    The USW will launch a full-scale, province-wide campaign on behalf of
forest workers and their communities. Next week, the USW plans to release an
account of the Liberal government's record in managing BC's forests, which
will be followed by lobbying in Victoria and events around the province.
    For the full 10-point plan, go to www.usw.ca/district3





For further information:

For further information: Bob Matters, (604) 996-4476


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