One hundred and eighty-five employees at Tolko Industries Ltd.’s Lakeview division will be unemployed in the short term as the company has announced a temporary curtailment of work at the mill.
On Monday the company said that as of Wednesday Lakeview would undergo a “short-term closure” due to weather-related harvesting curtailments.
The company noted those curtailments had gone on longer than anticipated due to an “unusually prolonged and wet spring,” leaving harvest areas in and around Williams Lake too wet to continue operations. It further indicated due to the conditions it had “nearly depleted” its usable log yard inventory and that the restart of operations would be dependent on fibre supply.
The planers at both Creekside and Lakeview are expected to operate for the remainder of the week.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into this,” said Mark Everard, Tolko site manger, of the company’s decision to shutdown, adding the weather forecast simply hasn’t deviated from rain.
Everard said the weather has created two challenges for harvesting timber: the load restrictions placed on roads during inclement weather and the fact that equipment simply can’t get in and out of the woods.
Lakeview has run out of fibre despite the fact the company stockpiled an additional 20 to 25 per cent in its log yards this year compared to last. Due to record productivity, Everard noted, the mill was consuming “more than we normally do.”
That, says United Steel Workers first vice-president Norm Prevost, should have been a sign that the company needed to stockpile even more wood in its yard.
“They have been producing record numbers of board feet which require more logs. So they say they brought in 20 per cent more than last year but the problem is if you’re producing 20 per cent more it’s the same amount.
“In my opinion, they should have anticipated the extra production and the wet weather and maybe stockpiled a little more.”
Prevost suggested that due to economics lumber companies might choose to stockpile logs in the bush rather than in their log yards as they don’t pay stumpage until those logs “cross the scale.”
However, he added, given that scenario the wet weather would also preclude logs stockpiled in the bush from being retrieved.
Neither Prevost nor Everard could say when the work stoppage would end.
Prevost expects members will be without pay for at least three days. Some seniors workers may maintain employment through mill maintenance.
“We really have no idea. Everything is going to depend on the weather,” Prevost said. “Hopefully it will dry up some to at least get some wood back in even if they could bring in enough to do one shift that would help.”