Canada: Wildfire season puts the pressure on the forestry industry

In Kamloops, British Columbia (B.C.), Canada, the unprecedented intense wildfire season has brought about activity closures and evacuations, and is bringing the heat down on loggers and mill workers.

According to Marty Gibbons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1-417, the dry conditions have brought much of the logging activity around the province to a standstill, with a number of mills having either slowed production or completely shut operations down due to a sharp decline of marketable timber, or even required to be shut down when orders to evacuate pushed workers out of the areas threatened by the fires.

All these factors have combined to put more pressure on an industry that is already struggling.

“Our Merritt operation went down…late last year,” Gibbons said to CFJC Today in an interview. “So, it’s been a tough year on the forest industry. It just seems like we keep rolling with the punches. At this point in time I don’t know if anyone’s talking layoffs, but no one really knows that the effect of these fires is going to be on [the] timber supply. But the amount of timber that is burnt is gigantic. It’s the worst year we’ve ever had by far.”

Burnt timber can be salvaged and recovered, but the quality of the materials will be lower. Additionally, evacuation orders and a slowdown of the industry also means that some forestry employees have been unable to work for a few weeks, divesting them of needed income.

“Originally, we had heard some talk about waiving the waiting period for employment benefits (EI), apparently that didn’t happen, which is very disappointing because a lot of these workers being forced out of their homes, may have returned now, but in addition to that they’ve lost their source of income,” Gibbons continued. “These are people supporting families; most can’t afford to be out of work. It’s really disappointing that the federal government didn’t step up and waive that waiting period. It’s kicking them when they’re down as far as I’m concerned.”

 

Source: CFJC Today