During the Truck Loggers Association (TLA) board of directors meeting in Port Alberni on April 7, frustration and concern was apparent from coastal logging contractors towards the industry’s major tenure holders.
“It’s a challenging environment to be in,” said David Elstone, executive director of the TLA. “You have the contractor that is having to go through challenges with the company which resulted in the crews being laid-off since December.”
Last month, Western Forest Products sent home mill workers due to a log shortage which the TLA said was caused by the company’s disregard for coastal logging contractors and the ongoing rate dispute.
The United Steelworkers have since moved towards legal proceedings against Western.
“With all the loggers out of work, the mill workers out of work and the other businesses and community being affected we’re just trying to say enough’s enough and just speak out to what’s happening,” Elstone said.
The TLA is the voice of the forestry community on the B.C. coast, Elstone said.
The association represents 455 independent forest contractors and their suppliers operating on the coast, with 22 members located in the Alberni Valley.
“Over the last decade or so we’ve had about 30 contractors that have left the industry out of frustration or out of financial distress and we have to ask the question, what is going on?” Elstone said.
“This is a symptom of something we’ve been predicting for a few years now and finally we’re seeing it happen and we’ve got to see something change.”
Elstone said changes that need to happen are for companies like Western to show more respect for the contractor.
“We are local businesses, we invest our money locally, we support the local economies, we’re the economic backbone of the communities and so that role has to be respected,” Elstone said.
“[Western] is willing to shut down a logging crew that hasn’t worked since December and shut down part of the saw line at one of their sawmills. They’re affecting the members of the community and yet they’re recording record profits; certainly they can afford to run the sawmill.”