Logs piled high at a softwood lumber sawmill in Saguenay, Quebec. Photo credit: Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press
Hundreds of workers in the forestry industry in Quebec, Eastern Canada, are beginning to feel the heat of the softwood lumber trade war between Canada and the United States (U.S.) as they hunker down and prepare themselves for an industry downsize.
For example, Resolute Forest Products has cut shifts at no less than seven sawmills and delayed the start of forest operations, affecting a total of 1,282 employees in all. Although their preliminary duties are below the 20 per cent average in Canada with no retroactivity – according to Daniel Leblond, the president of the Unifor local at the Dolbeau -Mistassini sawmill – the company can feel the immediate strain on the industry due to the volatility of market pricing, a direct consequence of the new lumber duties, as well as the fact that some of their customers in the U.S. had built up their wood supply and inventory in preparation of the duties.
A pressing worry is that the short-lived cutbacks may be extended as companies feel the pinch from retroactive duties as well as the looming preliminary charges concerning antidumping duties that will be disclosed in June.
During the last softwood lumber dispute between 2000 and 2006, the Canadian forestry industry lay off 20,000 jobs and saw an estimated 400 sawmills close their doors completely between 2004 and 2009.
With this latest turn of events, Unifor, representing 24,000 forestry workers in 134 companies, fears that the lumber duties this time around will hurt some 25,000 jobs in the Canadian forestry sector.
“In the short-term I don’t have a lot of worries, but if it goes on for one or two years it will do a lot of harm,” Normand Beaudoin, mayor of La Tuque, said.
“These families are devastated, just as if they were struck by a hurricane,” Leblond explained.
While the mills in Quebec may be some of the first to feel the negative impacts of the softwood duties, a cedar mill in New Brunswick also closed recently, affecting its six workers.
According to Bob Matters, wood council chairman for the United Steelworkers Union So far, there has been no news concerning mill closures in Western Canada, though the workers are understandably nervous. With many families with more than one member employed in the forestry industry, cutbacks would cause widespread pain and be the root of extensive consequences for communities depending on the forestry sector.
“Many of the workers, probably most of them, have been through the last round of softwood lumber negotiations, and the uncertainty around how long this will last is what is causing the grief,” Matters explained. “The major employer in town is the mill or manufacturing facility so it is a very big deal.”
Sources: The Canadian Press, The Toronto Metro, Ross Marowits,