Union works to restrict raw-log exports in B.C.

Williams Lake City Council is interested in learning more from the United Steelworkers about its campaign.

Williams Lake City Council is interested in learning more from the United Steelworkers about its campaign to restrict the volume of raw logs leaving B.C. and to create more B.C. jobs using BC resources.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, council received letter from the USW, dated April 17, 2012, outlining the union’s efforts in the campaign.

“We have argued that raw logs kill jobs in B.C. communities by reducing the availability of logs to BC wood manufacturers,” writes USW director Stephen Hunt in the letter.

The union’s wood council chair Robert Matters says the union has met with government, but has not heard anything back directly.

“They indicated that they understood our concerns and that they were not happy with the current situation themselves. They thought they were going to be ready to have some proposed changes, but we haven’t heard anything yet,” Matters explains.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations Cariboo Region confirms there are no raw logs presently being exported from the Cariboo region.

It says there is presently an ongoing review of the log-export policy, with submissions from various stakeholders, including the USW.

It has been ongoing since July 2011, but “because it’s one of those complicated issues and something that no one can come to an agreement on, it’s taking a little bit longer than anticipated. It’s ongoing and no final decisions have been made.”

In the meantime, the USW continues with its efforts to gain support from city councils around the province and to raise the issue wherever it can.

“It will be a matter of wait and see what the government comes down with,” Matters says.

So far the union has not received negative feedback from a single community. The letters have gone to virtually every community that was involved in the forest industry in the province.

“Communities generally understand the issue is pretty simple. It’s about saving jobs and job creation. From that perspective there’s very little dispute about whether or not to protect those,” Matters says.

A lot of people think raw log exports are a coastal issue, but Matters suggests that communities in the Interior are understanding that with those communities now producing a lot of lumber for Asian markets, they now understand that log exports may be leaving from the Coast, but are going into markets that they are also exporting lumber to.

“It is a dramatic impact on Interior communities, as it is on the Coast, and I think communities are realizing that,” Matters says.

The USW told the government if it has to export logs, especially from communities that no longer have sawmills, it should use that income stream to facilitate manufacturing investment.

“We could support that kind of concept if it was going to lead to further job creation,” he adds.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting Coun. Surinderpal Rathor, who has worked in the sawmill industry for more than 27 years and is a member of the USW, said he was concerned about the issue.

“We have to do something. I would appreciate a resolution coming forward from this council. The province is being affected by this,” Rathor said, echoing Matters’ concern that if the Asian markets can purchase raw logs why will they buy lumber?

Rathor told the other council members he wants to take action before Williams Lake is affected.

Coun. Ivan Bonnell suggested giving the USW an opportunity to speak to city council at a future committee of the whole meeting, a suggestion that received endorsement from all members of council.

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