Unions blame raw log exports for nearly 160 layoffs at sawmills due to lack of wood supply.

Sawmill workers from the Long Hoh sawmill near Whiskey Creek and the Western Forests Products sawmill in Ladysmith gathered in Whiskey Creek Wednesday to protest raw log exports.

“The Long Hoh mill down the road is now down because they have no logs and we’ve just been notified the Ladysmith sawmill is going down next week because they have no logs.” said Arnie Bercov, president of Public and Private Workers of Canada union.

Nearly 160 sawmill jobs on Vancouver Island have recently been lost or are at risk including Sean Demeria’s at the Long Hoh mill.

“Yeah I have a wife and two daughters and I’m just trying to raise a family” said Demeria. “My kids just went back to school and here I am going to be looking at no job on Monday.”

“Facing a layoff potentially for next week and we’re all really worried about the viability of the mill due to a lack of logs.” added Chris Crowther who works as an electrician at the Ladysmith sawmill.

“And at the same time as these mills go down for lack of logs you’ve got boats loading in Port Alberni, Nanaimo Harbour night and day they don’t stop right?” said Bercov.

“I think the industry is at a critical point now where there either needs to be policy change or we may see it disappear.” said Unifor’s Jim Dixon.

The unions are calling on the NDP government to end raw log exports and change the way fiber and wood are supplied to mills.

“Back to regulations where if you have access to the fiber you have to benefit the citizens of British Columbia.” said Dixon.

“We need to hear from them (NDP) what is your plan and how do you see this industry being revitalized?” said Bercov.

“We’re committed to getting more jobs for every log that comes out of the forest in BC” said Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson. “It’s early days and we’re going to be sussing out that topic with with the people who really have the expertise.”

The minister added there is no timeline to have that completed.

Dean Stoltz