CRANBROOK, British Columbia--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The United Steelworkers union (USW) is speaking out against the BC government’s decision to remove up to 2.6 million hectares from BC’s working forest. The government’s deferral process of up to two years will have an immediate impact on jobs, while the long-term impacts of the permanent removal will be devastating to thousands of workers, families and communities across BC.
“If even half of the 2.6 million hectares identified by the government are removed, jobs will be lost as multiple sawmills, value-added operations and pulp mills close permanently,” said USW Wood Council Chair Jeff Bromley. “In the past three years, eight operations with USW workers across BC closed and 1,000 good-paying, family-supporting jobs were lost. The impact from this process will almost certainly multiply across the province.”
The government says 4500 jobs will be lost, but USW’s information suggests the real number could be four times that.
“The government’s approach to reconciliation with First Nations in BC is the right approach and sorely needed. But the fact is, First Nations across BC are already a very big part of the forest industry. It is Indigenous-owned companies and Indigenous workers who are all going to feel the brunt of these losses,” said Bromley. “If First Nations who’ve been given 30 days to respond, reject the plan? Will the government listen to them?"
With four of its five members having direct ties to the Sierra Club, the USW is also concerned about the bias of the Technical Advisory Panel struck by the government.
“We cautioned the government that without having a panel of experts that had a balance of perspectives, it would lead to preservation over a sustainable harvest and the corresponding loss of thousands of jobs and serious damage to the industry,” said USW Local 1-1937 President Brian Butler. “The government would not listen to the USW Wood Council and quite frankly they sold out forest workers and the industry in the process.”
“All USW Wood Council members across BC feel betrayed and abandoned by this government,” said USW Local 2009 President Al Bieksa. “We were promised meaningful input and a voice at the table as government crafted a sustainable and strategic forestry plan. We are quickly losing trust in this government that they truly care about working people, particularly those that depend on the working forest for their livelihood.”
“Some in the environmental movement has been strategically misleading the public for years with false claims about the forest industry and it appears the government is now willing to cede forest policy to the very same groups,” said Bromley. “There has to be a better, unbiased approach that is based on the science.”
The USW Wood Council represents over 12,000 forestry workers in BC and is continuing to call for an immediate meeting with the Premier to hear the concerns of forest workers and discuss viable solutions for this untenable situation.