Softwood lumber duties prompt layoffs

MONTREAL — Hundreds of Quebec forestry workers are experiencing the first sour tastes from the softwood lumber battle with the United States as they prepare for the start of layoffs.

Starting Monday, Resolute Forest Products is cutting shifts at seven sawmills and delaying the start of forest operations that will affect 1,282 workers.

Pierrot Fortin, who experienced such heartache during the last impasse in the early 2000s, is again preparing for lost income and uncertainty.

“Work stoppages like this are never easy,” said the truck driver who hauls wood from forests in the Lac-Saint-Jean region.

“It has an impact on families and everyone is worried.”

But the 48-year-old says he’s luckier than some — his house is almost paid and his two children are no longer babies.

Fortin feels for young families and older workers who have few employment alternatives in one-industry towns.

The big worry is that temporary curtailments will be extended as companies feel growing pressure from retroactive duties and the prospect of additional preliminary charges to be announced next month.

During the last softwood lumber dispute, Canada shed 20,000 forestry jobs between 2000 and 2006, and about 400 sawmills closed entirely between 2004 and 2009.

Unifor, which represents 24,000 forestry workers at 134 companies, fears duties this time will hurt 25,000 Canadian jobs.

La Tuque mayor Normand Beaudoin says any downtime longer than two weeks currently planned for about 100 mill employees would be difficult for families in the small town about 200 kilometres south of the Lac-Saint-Jean region.

“In the short-term I don’t have a lot of worries, but if it goes on for one or two years it will do a lot of harm,” Beaudoin said.

Although workers were aware of the challenges facing the industry, they were surprised by the speed with which Resolute moved to cut costs — especially since the company’s preliminary duties are below the 20 per cent Canadian average with no retroactivity, said Daniel Leblond, president of the Unifor local at the Dolbeau-Mistassini sawmill.

Resolute said the immediate impact on the industry is largely because of volatility in market pricing thanks to the duties, and the fact that some U.S. customers had built up some supply in anticipation of the duties.

Still, it has created anxiety because there are no answers to questions if the layoffs will be extended.

“These families are devastated, just like if they were struck by a hurricane,” said Leblond.

He fears that more job cuts are coming at two paper mills if there’s no relief from punishing duties on supercalendered paper.

The Quebec mills are among the first in Canada to feel the effects of softwood duties. However, a cedar mill in New Brunswick recently closed, affecting six workers.

Danny Stillwell, owner of Hainesville Sawmill Ltd., northwest of Fredericton, said he’s closing for at least six months until a dispute over the new tariffs is resolved.

There’s no word of any mill closures in Western Canada, but workers are very nervous, said Bob Matters, wood council chairman for the United Steelworkers union.

“Many of the workers, probably most of them, have been through the last round of softwood lumber negotiations, and the uncertainty around how long this will last is what is causing the grief,” he said.

With many families having several members employed in the forest sector, Matters added, any cuts cause widespread pain and have far-reaching ramifications for forest-dependent communities.

“The major employer in town is the mill or manufacturing facility so it is a very big deal.”

Just Posted

Judge allows Mr. Big evidence in murder trial

Two men accused of triple-murder admitted their involvement to undercover police

Red Deer agency supporting for LGBTQ2S+ youth

New report on LGBTQ2S+ youth from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate

Four people arrested after gas and dash

Four people were arrested after an alleged gas and dash in two… Continue reading

Arrests made at Red Deer Rebels game

Charges pending against two people

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

CP Holiday train to stop in Ponoka for another year

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month