Approximately 80 workers at one of Ladysmith’s two waterfront sawmills will remain idle until at least after the Victoria Day long weekend.
Work was curtailed at Western Forest Products Ladysmith Sawmill on Monday, May 6 in a shutdown expected to last two weeks.
Babita Khunkhun, senior director of communications for WFP said the curtailment was due to a lack of logs that fit the Ladysmith mill. Khunkhun said the shortage was driven in part by increased competition for small logs from pulp companies.
“We recognize that this decision impacts our employees but the log supply challenges make this unavoidable. We will be working to mitigate impacts on employees, including looking to fill vacancies at other facilities where opportunities exist,” Khunkhun said.
While Khunkhun said the curtailment is due to a shortage of logs, Public and Private Workers of Canada Local 8 representative and Ladysmith plant chair Adrian Soldera said the union was told the curtailment was due to increased logging costs and stumpage fees from the government.
“Our mill is buying 20 percent of our logs from the open market and those costs are increasing from the pulp mills buying all that wood,” Soldera said. “We were told that the increased costs due to the stumpage rates were part of the reason why we were shut down. They said it’s cheaper to pay the penalty than to get the logs out of the bush.”
All WFP mills are in contract negotiations this year. Contracts for the Cowichan Bay, Saltair and Duke Point mills are up in June. The contract with Ladysmith mill expires in December. The current curtailment may or may not have an impact on those negotiations.
“I’m not going to say that’s true or not. Certainly if they’re saying it’s logging and it’s market conditions, then that’s because that we can’t operate the way we want to,” Soldera said. “We haven’t started negotiations yet, so I don’t want to surmise that.”
Soldera said he was told they operations would resume on May 21.
“We were told it would be two weeks,” Soldera said. “We don’t know if that’s the case or not, but that’s what we were told.”