Mackenzie Residents lineup during a rally on Tuesday following the indefinite curtailment of their Paper Excellence Mill
(Photo supplied by Unifor Canada's Facebook Page)
The President of the Council of Forest Industries has reacted to the second major indefinite curtailment the District of Mackenzie has faced in a year.
On Tuesday, the community hosted a rally following the Paper Excellence Mill’s announcement that 250 people will be out of work this summer.
This is the second such closure to occur after Canfor closed the doors of its facility indefinitely in 2019.
Susan Yurkovich told MyPGNow.com they need to make sure the province has reliable access to reasonably priced fibre.
“Unfortunately what you are seeing now is that BC is taking a disproportionate amount of downtime, much more than in previous market downturns and that is creating real troubles not only for our industry but for the workers and communities that depend on our sector.”
Yurkovich stated making the industry more cost-effective is the best solution.
“What we need to do is work together, governments, communities, industries to get the fibre costs to a place where we can compete and that’s the best thing that we can do to help communities and to help local suppliers or the people who work there whether it’s a big company or a small company.”
“We had a decline of the annual allowable cut in the interior and we have mills that have been shut because there is not enough fibre for all of the mills to keep operating. What we need to do is find a way to be able to ensure there is a secure fibre supply for a facility in and around Mackenzie and that fibre can be accessed at a reasonable cost.”
She added it’s a very tough time for the community as the forest sector has been facing extreme challenges over the past year, which is further exhausted by COVID-19.
Earlier this week, Mackenzie Mayor Joan Atkinson hinted that small, rural communities are being used as pawns in the forestry sector and that the larger companies have too much control over the industry.
Susan Yurkovich (President and CEO of Council of Forest Industries)
Yurkovich shot back at those comments stating the size ranges of mills is actually to the province’s benefit.
“I think our forest sector is really fortunate two or three large, globally significant forest product companies along with small companies that are family-owned operations and we have medium companies, we have all kinds of companies that are big, small and everything in between and the diversity of our sector is our strength.”
“If we can’t compete, there are other countries that are looking for the same kind of customers that we supply with our wood products and it’s important that we have a discussion about how we get a fibre costs down to the point where we can compete and our smaller communities will be a big part of that discussion.”
“If we cannot compete, nobody will make the investment that will allow us to support and sustain workers and communities like Mackenzie. That has to be understood, it’s not about big or small,” added Yurkovich.
The Paper Excellence Mill is Mackenzie’s largest employer as over 250 people will be out of work.
They will be curtailing operations on Tuesday with workers getting paid until August 9th.
On the positive side, Conifex Timber, which has been shut down since mid-April due to COVID-19 is set to resume operations on July 6th.