BURNABY, BC, April 23 /CNW/ - It's encouraging to see Canada's major
forest industry association at last calling for action on the forest-sector
crisis, say the United Steelworkers.
News reports this week cited Forest Products Association of Canada CEO
Avrim Lazar's urgent call for action on what has become perhaps the worst ever
crisis for Canada's forest industry. Lazar called for more than a meeting of
deputy ministers in the face of thousands of lost jobs and dozens of closed
wood processing plants.
"We agree with Mr. Lazar: it's about time the Canadian and BC governments
began doing something about a situation that seems to just get worse and
worse," said Steelworkers Wood Council chair Bob Matters. "Many workers are
exhausting their EI benefits and running out of seniority or else seeing their
plants close for good. Meanwhile there are all sorts of projects that could be
undertaken now to improve our forests and increase competitiveness in our
industry." He noted that about 15,000 forest workers in BC alone have lost
their jobs since October 2007.
Matters also agreed with Lazar's call for direct action to assist the
forest sector, echoing his concern that US states and the US federal
government are funneling money to the industry while the Canadian and BC
government sit idle.
"We're tired of this excuse that the Canada-US Softwood Lumber Agreement
stops us from protecting our industry, assisting Canadian workers or improving
the quality of our forests," said Matters.
Matters also expressed puzzlement about the recent actions of BC industry
associations. Both the Coast Forest Products Association and the Council of
Forest Industries recently rejected calls from BC NDP forest critic Bob
Simpson for the provincial government to provide assistance to those
organizations' member companies.
"I don't know what's wrong with those guys, frankly," Matters observes.
"We have US states and the federal government helping their industry. We have
FPAC calling for help. And yet those guys say 'no thanks.' Is it just
political? Is it because both those organizations and their members channel
hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to the BC Liberal Party? Surely
what's good for the industry has to come before crass politics."
The USW supports direct assistance to the forest industry in spite of the
lumber deal, stated Matters. "We know that no matter what we do, the US
protectionists are going to howl. But we also know that there are plenty of
things we can to within the agreement to enhance our forests, protect workers
and start rejuvenating our industry. And we also know that we need economic
stimulus, both in the form of income support in resource-based communities and
For further information:
For further information: Bob Matters, (604) 683-1117, (604) 996-4476