Displaced forestry workers who have not done so already are encouraged to contact the new support program put in place by the provincial government.
Terry Tate, temporary business agent with United Steelworkers Union Local 1-2017, and Frank Everett, Prince George city councillor and former USW president, have been hired as consultants to help set up the Forestry Worker Support Program.
“My role is to set up job placement co-ordination offices in Clearwater, 100 Mile House, Fort St. James, Fort St. John and Mackenzie,” said Tate, adding he worked closely with the government on bridging to retirement and skills training programs during the last major downturn of the forest industry in 2009. “What we are doing now mirrors what we did back then.”
Once the offices are set up, Tate hopes they will be operated by displaced forestry workers.
“We have been contacting people who might be interested,” he added, noting a needs assessment was done with all the mills that shut down and information is being gathered from displaced workers.
In the meantime, Tate’s been contacted by many people already.
“A logger who called me said he has been out of work for six months and cannot do it anymore. If people are going to change careers, maybe this is the time.”
At least 200 people in the Williams Lake area have been impacted, including employees of small contractors and truckers, and Tate said there’s no question the ministries of labour and forests are pushing to get help out to people.
“I know they are trying because I’m getting phone calls and e-mails at 9 p.m. I know they want to make things easy for people — not complicated. People are anxious.”
Not everyone wants to move either, Tate said.
“I heard people in Quesnel saying they want to stay in their community and less than 10 per cent said they’d move to where the jobs are. Camp work is different thought because it’s an interim option where they can keep their homes and work away for a week or two weeks at a time.”
Tate anticipates there will be lots of uptake for the bridging to retirement program and he and others working for the program will be tracking to see if there is someone who can fill spots when people do retire.
Information about the support offered can be found on the government website https://forestryworkersupport.gov.bc.ca/ or by calling 1-844-478-0822.
A paper version of the applications will be available soon as well.