Workers at Sinclar Group's Lakeland Mills will be paid until the end of this week before becoming unemployed, says United Steelworkers official; up to roughly 250 workers affected

PRINCE GEORGE, British Columbia , April 26, 2012 () – Lakeland Mills employees will be paid up to the end of the week and then they will be unemployed, need to file for Employment Insurance or find other employment.

Frank Everitt, United Steelworkers Local 1-424 president and city councillor said this affects not only the 150 hourly workers but managers, supervisors and support staff.

There will be a rippling effect on the sales department, he added, as well as loggers and chip harvesters.

In total he expects between 200 and 250 people to be affected.

“This is a tremendous blow. There’s the loss of life, some people with life altering injuries plus the loss of employment, good friends and coworkers. Some of these people are second and third generation employees working in this family owned operation,” Everitt said.

Everitt said EI representatives have been attending the communication meetings, assisting in getting the process started, giving claims from Lakeland Mills a ‘code 4’ status so they can be processed quickly.

Everitt pointed out many employees at the mill have only every worked there.

“Some started straight out of high school. They’ve had no other job but this. They don’t know any industry but the forest industry. If they are fortunate enough to get another job in the forest industry, fantastic, but to go and look at working in another industry now would be challenging.”

He said the USW have a clause that will give preferential hiring to Lakeland workers at other certified USW forestry industry facilities, and the agreement provides for employees being subject to recall rights through seniority provision, if the mill reopens.

It will take some time before anyone knows whether or not that will happen.

“Meanwhile time will let us move forward to see how we can start up the operation to deal with the inventory that is there through their planing facility,” Everitt said.

Right now the site will remain sealed off while the RCMP conduct their investigation. Once that is concluded, the scene will be turned over to WorkSafeBC and the fire department to ascertain the cause of the fire, which Everitt said will take a considerable amount of time. Following that analysis a report will be written regarding the findings. Following that the company will deal with insurance claims.

“Then they will have some more information so they can make decisions,” Everitt said.

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