Conifex plant in Fort St. James. (File photo)

Feds should have extended EI, says displaced forestry worker

Only 11 workers in the district have been placed into other jobs via forestry placement office.

Fort St. James forestry worker says the federal government should have extended EI and provided temporary job program assistance, until permanent jobs became available.

Francois Hamel who worked for Conifex before it shut down shop in the district last year, was part of the plant committee and is still the committee’s chairman. Hamel’s job includes representing his co-workers during conflict and protecting their collective agreement.

Hamel who is currently unemployed, told the Caledonia Courier “We have not had any support from the Federal Government to this point.”

He gave an example from 2008-2009, when forestry workers in the district were in a similar condition when Pope & Talbot closed down.

“There was funding for this,” he said, noting the feds could have done the same.

In terms of the forestry placement office in Fort St. James, Hamel said he hasn’t had any comments from co-workers as the office only opened at the end of December, 2019.

READ MORE: Job placement office open in Fort St. James

READ MORE: Supports program available for displaced Interior forestry workers

However, other organizations working in Fort St. James have provided a lot of support, he said.

“I would like to mention the great work and support from CNC, WorkBC / Fort Outreach, Nak’azdli First Nation, and the Transition Team headed up by Brad McRobert. The group has been working hard to make positive things happen in the community, despite the situation we are in. It is just as easy to get involved and make a difference as it is to criticize.”

The forestry placement office a.k.a Job Placement Co-ordination Office was set up by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. In Fort St. James the office opened end of December, 2019.

The offices were opened in five interior communities hardest hit by mill closures including — 100 Mile House, Fort St. James, Fort St. John, Mackenzie and Clearwater.

READ MORE: B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Province-wide over 580 workers have accessed the job placement office for services, with 62 having accessed the office in Fort St. James, said Melody Wey, communications manager for the ministry of labour.

Meanwhile, approximately 20 percent of the job applicants are looking to train through other programs, Wey told the Caledonia Courier.

As of now, only eleven people from Fort St. James have found employment through the job placement office.

Wey said it takes time to match each applicant to the opportunities available in communities.

“They (staff) are always looking for good, local opportunities to support workers in their next employment role,” she added.

For people who have contacted the placement office but have not found it to be helpful are asked to engage with the job placement office, Wey said, adding “the office is committed to providing an individual approach to each worker — as each person has different needs and career aspirations.”

“It will take time to place each person in the right opportunity,” Wey said.

For workers looking to make their case for a placement better, the first step is to complete the online Job Match Form. “That way the placement officer can start working on providing customized options when they meet with the worker,” Wey explained.

And if you are a forestry worker who is still not satisfied with the office’s response, you are encouraged to share your feedback by emailing

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

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