Lumber production in Houston is already being curtailed following Canfor’s recent announcement.
Canfor announced Nov. 1 that lumber production in B.C. would be reduced over the fourth quarter of 2018 through a decrease in operating days. This will be achieved through immediate short-term curtailments at some facilities, along with extended downtime at Christmas.
Canfor’s sawmill did not run last week, affecting most of its 319 workers. The mill will also be down on Nov. 16, 23 and 30, 2018.
“We are curtailing our operations over the short term due to log supply challenges following another difficult wildfire season, uncompetitive log costs and declining lumber prices,” said Michelle Ward, a spokesperson for Canfor, last week.
The curtailment is expected to reduce Canfor’s B.C. production output by approximately 10 per cent throughout the quarter.
According to Ward, maintenance activities will still take place when the Houston mill is not running.
“During the downtime some employees will continue to work conducting maintenance and work in the log yard receiving logs,” she explained.
Canfor intends to resume full production in the first quarter of 2019, she added.
Brian O’Rourke, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1-2017, told Houston Today he hopes the curtailments are not connected in any way to the negotiations currently underway.
Canfor is represented in bargaining by the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations (Conifer). Conifer and USW have been engaged in collective bargaining since May 29 , 2018.
The union released a statement last week saying Canfor’s decision to curtail operations in B.C. is “angering USW members in what looks more like a bargaining tactic than a refection of markets.”
Lumber prices hit record levels in June, pushed by seasonal impact of the 2017 forest fires, severe winter weather and strong demand from the U.S. housing market.
Rotating strikes suspended
Members of USW Local 1-2017, which represents Houston sawmill workers, have been in a strike position since Oct. 6.
Some sawmill workers in northern B.C. have already participated in an overtime ban and rotating strikes.
Last week the USW Bargaining Committee and the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association, which represents southern interior forestry employers, agreed to mediation through the B.C. Labour Relations Board.
Mediator Dave Schaub has been appointed to mediate talks between the two parties which are scheduled for Nov. 14-16, 2018 in Kelowna.
At the request of the USW Bargaining Committee, the overtime ban and the rotating strikes in northern B.C. have been suspended prior to and during the mediation process.