More than 100 local loggers affected by blockade

  • Mar. 26, 2005 8:00 p.m.

By Heidi Bevington-More than 100 local loggers have been off the job and unpaid since the blockade of TFL 39 began March 22.
The workers include a 100 direct employees as well as sub-contractors, said Stan Schiller, owner of Edwards and Assoc., which contracts with Weyerhaeuser to log in Tree Farm Licence 39. Weyerhaeuser itself only has about 10 people working on the islands, Mr. Schiller said.
Financially, the blockade is having much more of an effect on his company and employees than it is on Weyerhaeuser, he said.
His annual payroll is between $7 and $8-million, 90 per cent of which goes to islanders who spend much of it locally. The company won’t have to pay wages for the duration of the blockade, but it still pays benefits, staff and overhead
“I don’t like to cry about it,” Mr. Schiller said, “but for small contractors it does have a big impact.”
Mr. Schiller employs several islands contractors to build roads, run equipment like the grapple yarder, and clean the sort. They won’t get paid either until work resumes in the woods. And islands suppliers who provide equipment like truck parts for the company will be impacted as well.
Weyerhaeuser employees on the islands are staff who can continue to do some of their work from home, said Mr. Schiller, and who continue to be paid. In addition, Weyerhaeuser can easily make up the income lost on the islands by increasing its cutting elsewhere in its operation.
None of Edwards and Associate’s employees is laid off. “They are being prevented from going to work,” Mr. Schiller said. Every morning, one employee drives to the blockade to ask if workers can pass. When access is denied, the worker drives back to Port Clements and lets the others know they can’t go to work that day, said Mr. Schiller.
Having just one worker go out helps to prevent conflict. “It’s more civilized,” he said.
The workers are all from islands communities including Port Clements, Old Massett, Masset and Queen Charlotte.
For now, Mr. Schiller said he plans to observe the situation and take it from there. No injunction is planned, he said.
“The issue is between the CHN and the government. Unfortunately, the local people are being affected.”
The company has cutting permits approved for 287,000 cubic metres of timber for 2005, said Mr. Schiller. So far, the company has cut about 50,000 cubic metres, and was planning to cut 33,000 cubic metres in April, May and June.
The entire Ministry of Forests district office in Queen Charlotte has also been affected by the blockade, with no employees able to work in their offices since Monday. A few government employees who work for other ministries also work out of the Ministry of Forests office, and they haven’t been able to go to work either.
Gloria O’Brien of O’Brien and Fuerst Logging said their operation hasn’t been affected by the blockade as they are logging in the Jungle Creek area.
Tim Fennell of Eaglecrest Enterprises Ltd. operates a small sawmill in Port Clements. He hasn’t been affected in the short term, but he said he will be if the blockade goes on for a long time. However, he said, recent changes to the forest act are having a much bigger and more negative affect on his business than the blockade, which he supports.
“The natives are making a stand. They want control. Can they do any worse a job of managing the resources on the islands? Let’s give them a chance,” said Mr. Fennell.
Mr. Fennell said he is very frustrated with the way the provincial government is running the small business forestry program.
“Changes to the forest act are crucifying rural resource based communities in the short and long term,” he said.
Changes to the small business forestry program have been devastating to local small business people who work in the woods including fallers, road builders and log scalers, said Mr. Fennell. And in the long term, the people of the province are losing control of the forests and tax revenue because of the way the province is managing the forests.