Workers at Western Forest Products’ manufacturing facilities are off the job again after an eight-month strike that ended last month. The company called for a week curtailment due to the CIVID-19 crisis. (File photo)

Western Forest Products curtails operations for one week due to COVID-19 crisis

Curtailments at Cowichan and Ladysmith sawmills will continue into the second quarter

Western Forest Products has curtailed all its manufacturing facilities currently operating in British Columbia due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on operating conditions.

The forest company announced on March 22 that the curtailment, which began on March 23, is scheduled to last for up to one week.

But there’s still no work in sight for the hundreds of employees at WFP’s sawmills in Cowichan Bay and Ladysmith, who have yet to be called back to work when the eight-month strike at the company ended in mid February.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN WORKERS OPTIMISTIC, BUT CAUTIOUS, OVER DEAL TO END STRIKE AT WFP

Approximately 1,500 of WFP’s hourly employees, including workers in Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Chemainus, and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C., were impacted by the strike.

Workers at the Chemainus mill went back to work shortly after the strike ended.

“The ongoing curtailments at the Company’s Cowichan Bay and Ladysmith sawmills are expected to continue into the second quarter due to limited log supply and weak market demand,” WFP said in a press release.

RELATED STORY: PAIR OF WFP’S MILLS REMAIN IDLE AFTER EXHAUSTING STRIKE

The press release said that during the one-week work curtailment due to COVID-19, the company will re-evaluate business and operating conditions to determine when the manufacturing operations in its other operations will resume.

“Packaging and shipping of lumber products will continue to meet customer requirements,” the release said.

“Western Forest Products will also take steps to minimize its planned capital expenditures in 2020. The company plans to incur only safety, environmental and committed capital expenditures in the near-term. Going forward, discretionary capital will remain on hold until there is greater operational certainty.”

RELATED STORY: STRIKING FORESTRY WORKERS TAKE TO STREETS IN DUNCAN

Don Demens, president and CEO of WFP, said the health and safety of the company’s employees remains WFP’s top priority.

“Western has taken steps to mitigate potential exposure to COVID-19 throughout our operations by implementing strict health and safety protocols,” he said.

“The decision to temporarily curtail manufacturing operations in British Columbia is necessary as we respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation. We will continue to monitor market conditions and government directions in the jurisdictions where we operate and adjust our business as circumstances change.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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