Western Forest Products plans downtime at Vancouver Island, British Columbia, sawmills because of log shortages; United Steelworkers union blames increase in log exports

Wendy Lisney

Wendy Lisney

Mar 22, 2011 – Forestweb

LOS ANGELES , March 22, 2011 () – Western Forest Products Inc. (WFP) is to close at least two sawmills on Vancouver Island as a result of insufficient log inventories, The Nanaimo Daily News reported on March 21.

Steelworkers Union Local 1-1937 VP Brian Butler, said he was told last Thursday that WFP's Alberni Pacific mill in Port Alberni and the company's Cowichan Bay mill would temporarily shut down next week.

According to Butler, WFP's mill in downtown Nanaimo -- which recently reopened with a skeleton crew of about 30 -- may "just squeeze by" the log shortage without a shutdown.

But WFP's Duke Point mill could be impacted by the planned closures because there would be less residual woodwaste, said Butler. The Duke Point mill is currently in partial operation, employing about 30 workers in its planing division.

WFP's Ladysmith mill, which reopened last fall after a two-year closure, was shut down for four days two weeks ago because of low log inventories.

WFP says the low log inventories are the result of more snow than was expected in many logging camps this winter, while rough weather makes it difficult for log booms to be towed to local mills. 

Butler said the his union's members see the main reason for the problem as the increasing amount of logs being exported by WFP and other logging companies.  "We believe that there's lots of logs for each mill's inventories, but much of it has been slated for export.," said Butler, adding that the government is increasingly allowing log exports and that must change.

The primary source of this article is The Nanaimo Daily News, Nanaimo, British Columbia, on March 21, 2011.

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