Federal Government finally recognizes jobs crisis: Steelworkers want federal program to focus on rescue not only adjustment

    TORONTO, Jan. 10 /CNW/ - United Steelworkers' (USW) National Director
Ken Neumann said Thursday's announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper of
$1-billion to help communities affected by global economic volatility is long
overdue, but still falls short of the dramatic action needed to reverse the
crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors across Canada.
    "The jobs crisis is front and centre in this announcement," said Neumann.
"The loss of tens of thousands of jobs in communities that have depended on
industries such as forestry for over a century is creating ghost towns across
this country. Our union is glad that the federal government has finally
recognized what our members have known for a long time. There is a jobs
crisis, not only in the resource sector, but in manufacturing and processing."
    USW Ontario/Atlantic Director Wayne Fraser said Northern Ontario has been
especially hard hit by mill closures and the collapse of the forest industry
in general.
    "For too long both levels of government have been in denial about the
impact of job losses," said Fraser. "In forestry alone, the industry has
historically provided direct jobs for nearly 300,000 Canadians, not to mention
the thousands of jobs indirectly supported by the sector. This announcement
will help to some extent, but what is needed is a deeper strategy to stop the
hemorrhaging of decent jobs. An adjustment and retraining program only works
when there are real opportunities available."
    Western Canada Director Steve Hunt said that, as the BC union
representing the single largest concentration of forestry workers in Canada,
the USW is witnessing the worst crisis perhaps since the Great Depression.
    "Combined with low lumber prices brought on by a collapse in the US
housing market, compounded by the subprime mortgage crisis, we have an
industry that is also affected by a high Canadian dollar, high interest rates
and intensified global competition including that from low-wage producers such
as China and Chile," said Hunt.
    "Tack onto that the punitive Canada-US Softwood Lumber Agreement, imposed
by the same Harper government that is now offering this Community Development
Trust, and you have a damaged and ailing economy."
    Neumann said Harper's new-found enthusiasm for training and adjustment
will not solve the crisis in investment as Canadian firms are moving their
operations to the US to get around the Harper border tax. Companies are also
neglecting research and development spending, as well as failing to diversify
product lines to adapt to changing conditions.
    "This new program will not touch those problems," he said.
    "With some companies exporting billions of cubic meters of logs, while
others struggle to make ends meet in the sawmilling, wood manufacturing and
pulp and paper sectors, governments must discourage raw-log exports and
encourage value-added production."
    Neumann said the USW is prepared to work with the federal government to
try and make the program work, but the union will continue to push for
meaningful and creative ways out of the crisis gripping the forest sector.

For further information:

For further information: Ken Neumann, (416) 487-1571 or (416) 558-2510;
Wayne Fraser, (416) 243-8791 or (416) 577-4045; Steve Hunt, (604) 683-1117 or
(604) 816-2554

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