Union pushing candidates to address forestry

With the federal election coming up Jan. 23, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada is calling for candidates to answer some questions about the forestry industry crisis prior to voters going to the polls.
“This industry is the second-largest industry in Ontario, and it’s the largest provider of jobs and contributor to the gross domestic product in Canada at large,” CEP vice-president Cec Makowski noted Monday afternoon.
“When we’re in the midst in an election, and we’re seeing literally thousands upon thousands of jobs being lost across the country, I’d say it’s an issue that ranks in the forefront of election issues,” he added.
Makowski said he felt the answers to the forestry industry’s woes can be achieved politically—it’s just a matter of getting the leaders in government to pursue them.
“There’s all kinds of programs that are available for both levels of government to mitigate the crisis in the forest industry,” he remarked.
“Many of the issues and challenges the forest industry face are a result of misguided governmental policies that have impacted negatively upon the forest products industry,” he charged.
“I think candidates of all stripes across the country should be challenged as to whether they think this industry is important to them, and whether they’re prepared to support it in a tangible way once the House of Commons resumes sitting,” Makowski added.
As first reported in Monday’s Daily Bulletin, the CEP is organizing rallies across the country this coming Monday (Jan. 16), including one in Dryden, to raise awareness of the forestry crisis—and the fact it wants politicians to provide some answers.
“We are looking forward to our national day of action in support of the forest industry,” said Makowski. “I think clearly history has demonstrated that when people inform politicians of their concerns out on the streets, people take notice.
“It’s a sad thing to say but our efforts to communicate with legislators through meetings and phone calls and so on don’t garner the attention like protests, rallies, and other activities that gain the media’s attention.
“I think it’s a completely appropriate way to get the attention of the politicians,” Makowski added.
At these rallies, all political candidates will be asked to state their positions on the forest industry crisis. More specifically, the questions they’ll be asked include:
•What is your proposed solution to the crisis in Canada’s forestry communities?;
•Would you tie any government aid packages for the industry to creating and saving jobs?; and
•Would you agree to a national summit with unions, industry, and governments to develop a national renewal strategy?
Collectively, these rallies will be the largest event in CEP history.
News of the planned national day of action for forestry workers was unveiled at a press conference here this past Monday morning by local union reps on behalf of CEP president Brian Payne and Makowski.
“I’m saddened to report, since 2000, over 40,000 forest-sector jobs have been lost due to plant shutdowns, plant closures, partial machine shutdowns, or associated service industry job losses, and the trend continues,” said Allan T. Bedard, recording secretary for CEP Local 92.
“We are in a crisis in the forest sector and before we go to the ballot box, the CEP wants answers,” he added.
Joining Bedard during Monday morning’s meeting at the old CN station were CEP Local 92 president Bill Shine, CEP Local 306 financial secretary Luc Quesnel, CEP Local 324 steward Shawn Morrison, and CEP Local 306 president Kevin Watts.
Bedard noted several mayors and community leaders from across the region will be on hand for the Jan. 16 rally in Dryden, and invited Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk and other members of town council to attend.
Bedard noted the CEP’s message is “simple and clear.”
“We want an end to plant closures, and a national summit to develop a co-ordinated renewal effort by industry, unions, governments, and environmental groups,” he remarked.
“And before election day, we want to know where our political candidates stand on the future of Canada’s most important natural resource,” Bedard added.
The local CEP is expected to hold a second press conference here next Monday, with further statements from the national executive on the forestry crisis.
In 2004-05, a total of 7,683 CEP members were permanently laid off across Canada.
Nearly 3,200 of these layoffs were in Ontario, mainly at mills in Dryden, Kenora, Thunder Bay, and Red Rock.
A total of 935 jobs were cut in Atlantic Canada while 2,847 were lost in Quebec. The remaining 706 were mill workers in Western Canada.
These lost jobs represent only CEP members. It estimates the total numbers of unionized employees out of work due to these closures is closer to three times that total.