College Instructors and Forest Workers Join Forces to Sound the Alarm

    Union Leaders Say BC Budget Turns a Blind Eye on Job Crisis in Central

    VANCOUVER, March 11 /CNW/ - "I don't know what happened to their
so-called Heartland strategy, but the latest provincial budget is completely
ignoring the mounting job crisis we see in the Central Interior," said Cindy
Oliver, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE). Oliver
is in Prince George to speak at a public forum set for 5 p.m. March 11 at the
College of New Caledonia (CNC). She will share the podium with two other
speakers: Brian Harder, provincial representative for the United Steelworkers
and Peter Ewart from the Stand Up for the North community coalition. The
Steelworkers represent thousands of woodworkers in the Central Interior and
are concerned about the lack of any programs in the latest provincial budget
to deal with job losses in that sector.
    "CNC has just announced layoffs of faculty at that institution. Mills in
the Central Interior are shutting down, some permanently. Towns and entire
regions are at risk. At the very least, people need training and skills to
adjust to some of the massive changes we are seeing in this region, but the
provincial budget has no strategy or plan to help make any of that possible.
Instead, we are seeing funding cuts and inaction from the provincial
government," said Oliver. "What they are trying to pull off at CNC is just the
tip of the iceberg in terms of their response to problems here in the Prince
George area," Oliver added.
    "The current crisis in our industry means that forest workers are taking
it on the chin and many of the BC government's forest policies are making
matters worse," said Harder. "The Forest Act changes made in 2003 and the
softwood lumber agreement are just two examples of how the provincial
government has undermined forest industry jobs. Whether it's their hands-off
approach to controlling log exports or their unwillingness to challenge forest
companies bent on permanently closing mills, the BC government has no plan to
deal with the current crisis. The only idea that Premier Campbell has is to
convene a round table discussion with forest industry executives. The same
people who brought us log exports and mill closures are going to give the
Premier some new ideas? I don't think so," said Harder.
    "We need the government to get involved and show some leadership," said
Oliver. "Handing out layoff notices sends exactly the wrong signal," said
Oliver. "Why not target regions like the Central Interior with the support
they need to weather this current crisis? Why not provide workers with an
opportunity to upgrade their skills during a downturn rather than just abandon
them when they need help the most? Why not use public institutions like CNC to
be part of the solution rather than just another place where layoff notices
are making the rounds," said Oliver. "Yes, those are thinking-outside-the-box
ideas, but that's what this region needs right now and they certainly didn't
get any of it in the latest BC budget," Oliver concluded.

For further information:

For further information: Phillip Legg, Federation of Post Secondary
Educators,, (604) 788-2877

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Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC

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