Western Forest Products Chemainus sawmill is closing for two weeks


Western Forest Products has notified sawmill workers at its Chemainus site of a looming shutdown.

The closure begins next week and the company says it’s related to market conditions and log availablity for that mill.

“Surprised, pretty short notice was an issue,” said Chris Cinkant, the business agent with United Steelworkers 1-1937.

The union that represents the 100 impacted workers, roughly two-thirds of Western Forest Products employees in Chemainus, says it will be tough financially.

“It does get difficult with your cost of living and whatnot so yeah it’s upsetting,” said Cinkant.

The announcement comes just weeks after Western Forest Products announced the completion of its kiln upgrade at its Saltair Division. It also touted plans to invest $35 million for continuous dry kilns for its Nanaimo and Chemainus divisions as well.

“We see a very bright future for our company here on the coast. It does require participation from all stakeholders though,” said Steven Hofer, Western Forest Products CEO at the Feb. 26 announcement.

In a statement, the company said the recently announced investments would allow the “company to weather the full spectrum of lumber market cycles and operate on a consistent basis.”

The Independent Woodprocessors Association of BC says the Western Forest product curtailment will impact others.

“So when that shuts down its supply of wood or lumber I would say at that point to smaller manufacturers, the value added companies, they too lose out on that supply and their employees can be impacted as well,” said Brian Menzies, the association’s executive director.

B.C.’s forests minister says it’s always concerning when a mill is curtailed and he understands the shutdown is related more to lumber prices than a lack of fibre supply.

“The price soared in 2020 and 2021. It’s come down considerably since then and low prices which the government doesn’t control in an international market have a real impact on profitability of mills,” said Bruce Ralston.

The mill cuts cedar and fir and the union says it believes the company could have bought more fibre on the open market to keep the mill running.

The Chemainus mill was last shut down for two weeks over Christmas. All involved are hoping more shutdowns won’t be coming in the future.

Last year four Vancouver Island First Nations entered a partnership with Western Forest Products.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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