$5.5 million to be paid in forest job compensation

  • Apr. 13, 2011 7:00 p.m.

by Heather Ramsay–Islands forest workers and contractors will be compensated for jobs lost due to Haida Gwaii land use decisions to the tune of around $5.5 million. The money will be offered via voluntary severance packages to union workers at Teal Jones in Sandspit and to union employees of Western Forest Products contractors. Funds are also available to nine replaceable contractors whose ability to work has been impacted by a reduction in available fibre. The funds come from the Coast Sustainability Trust and the BC Forestry Revitalization Trust Fund, said fund manager Eric van Soeren. Mr. van Soeren said similar funds were made available to workers on the north and central coasts after land use decisions were made there in the mid-2000s. Although work has been slow throughout the negotiations and since the land use objectives were enacted in Dec. 2010, compensation could not be offered until the impacts of those new restrictions were measured. Mr. van Soeren said the funding can’t kick in until the impacts of provincial decisions became quantifiable. Mr. van Soeren said Teal Jones has been impacted by approximately 22,000 m3 and Western Forest Products by approximately 286,000 m3. Contractors get paid based on a calculated value of what they are losing out on, he said. For example, a stump to dump contractor will receive more than a contractor that only hauls gravel for road building. Employees pay outs are based on years of service – 10 regular days pay for every year of service, which could range between a few thousand dollars to around $100,000. In Sandspit, John Pichugin, manager of engineering and forestry, says 11 Teal Jones senior employees have been offered the package and have until April 15 to decide whether to accept. “People who have hung in there are entitled to quite a bit,” he said. The workers who accept the severance package are not eligible to work with Teal Jones again for six months and also lose their seniority standing. “It’s a very difficult time for workers and their families,” said Mr. Pichugin. “This is a way to acknowledge the work they’ve done for many years.” Mr. Pichugin said Teal Jones is not ceasing operations, but as the implementation date for the land use order moves closer “its harder for us to operate.” “We’re still going to be in Sandspit,” he said. “But work will be sporadic.” The BC Forestry Revitalization Trust has been in place since 2003, when money was set aside to compensate employees and contractors for job losses due to the takeback of tenure from major licensees after the implementation of the BC Forestry Revitalization Act. Most of that original $115 million was spent, but income on investments left more money in place for future impacts on workers and contractors. “We’ve been wanting to do this for years,” said Mr. van Soeren, but it was only recently he’d been able to get the money left over from the BC Forestry Revitalization Trust matched with the Coast Sustainability Ecosystem Based Management Matching account, set aside to assist communities and workers negatively impacted by EBM.

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