OTTAWA, July 7 /CNW Telbec/ - Announcements of the closure of the Elk Falls mill, near Campbell River, BC, by Catalyst Paper and of the Kelowna packaging mill by Smurfit-Stone yesterday will add about 400 jobs to the list of casualties resulting from the inaction of the federal government in regards to the forestry crisis.
"How many more communities should be hard hit before the federal government takes the issue seriously?" wonders Dave Coles, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. "When the auto industry was in crisis, the federal Conservatives immediately stepped in. But the industry has been in crisis for almost five years and no significant action has been undertaken to help the forest sector to weather the storm.
"Knowing the forest industry is concentrated in rural areas, we are seriously wondering if this isn't a case of the Conservative government taking rural votes for granted. It is also obvious that the provincial government doesn't understand the situation. But regardless of the level of government, what should be clear is that the livelihood of workers and the future of communities have no place being pawns in electoral strategy games. These workers, like the 45,000 other workers who lost their forestry jobs since 2005, and like the communities they sustain, will be suffering.
The Catalyst Paper's Elk Falls mill will bear the brunt of the job loss, with 350 jobs lost. The company doesn't escape Coles wrath, as the CEP President denounces the company's hardball tactics in the negotiations with the union, but also with the communities they belong to.
"Catalyst Paper gives a whole new meaning to the expression "corporate citizen," he says. "It believes it is above the law of the land by deciding itself how much property taxes it is willing to pay, threatens to move its factories to Asia if it doesn't get what it wants and now puts hundreds on the street because it cannot break the strength of workers who refuse to be exploited by a company that just refinanced its debt under favourable terms compared to other players of the industry.
"When all partners get together, there are solutions. Forestry has been one of the cornerstones of Canada's economy and it could continue to be so with a little foresight by industry leaders and governments. Unfortunately, this closure makes it look like Catalyst Paper doesn't see itself as a partner, but rather as a dictator, dictating the terms of its involvement in the economy and affairs of the communities.
"The forestry crisis will escalate unless the government intervenes," concludes Coles. And until it does, it will not hear the end of us."
SOURCE Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
For further information: For further information: CEP President Dave Coles, 613-299-5628