Early retirement money available for local mill workers

But reading the fine print is important

Canfor workers here are eligible for early retirement bridging payments. (file photo)

Canfor’s millworkers at Plateau in Vanderhoof qualify for a provincial government early retirement bridging program but individual circumstances will vary.

First announced in September but with details released only late last month, millworkers could, based on individual wishes and eligibility, receive up to $75,000 meant to provide a cushion leading up to the start of regular pension payments.

There are two ways in which millworkers could qualify — one is by voluntarily agreeing to retire right away and the second requires waiting until mid-January of next year to apply.

In the first circumstance, an employer has to agree that there will be no skills gap created by retiring right away and that a younger worker can fill the vacancy.

In the second circumstance, a worker has to wait until mid-January of next year because that’s four months after mid-September when Canfor here went to a four-day week. Under early retirement eligibility rules, workers have to wait for four months after their work time was affected.

Basic eligibility requirements are the same for both circumstances — a worker has to be at least 55 years of age when an application is submitted and has to have been employed at a mill for the last two consecutive years or have their time affected since May 1, 2019.

If “you agree that if you receive bridging to retirement benefits, you will permanently vacate your position, lose your seniority and agree to not be employed within any industry for 18 months,” program rules indicate.

In addition to Canfor’s workers here, workers at the company’s Houston mill can also qualify as that facility also went on a four-day week in mid-September.

The province says $40 million has been allocated for the early retirement bridging program, part of the $69 million package announced in September in response to permanent or temporary mill closures caused by the high cost of supplying fibre to mills, supply shortages and low market prices.

But the $40 million early retirement portion is to be cost-shared between the province and participating companies and, so far, there’s been no agreement on how that will take place.

“Ministry executives are meeting and consulting with industry representatives and the details of cost-sharing are being developed,” a labour ministry statement last week indicated.

And the early retirement bridging program is only available to millworkers. Employees of contractors who log and ship fibre to mills, even if they have also been affected by mill closures, don’t qualify.

There was no specific reason given as to why employees of contractors aren’t also eligible, but the labour ministry pointed to other portions of the $69 million aid package.

There’s $15 million for short-term forest employment programs, including fire prevention and $12 million in additional programs and employer grants for skills training.

Another $2 million is for a job placement coordination office.

To date nine short term employment programs have been authorized around the province with just one of those in the north and that’s in Fort St. James where a mill owned by Conifex has been permanently closed.

Workers there are clearing 60 hectares of potential wildfire fibre along the south boundary of Mount Pope Provincial Park.

In the meantime, Canfor expects to hear this month if its application for federal employment insurance benefits will be accepted for workers here and at Houston who are off work for the one day a week the mills are closed.

Just Posted

Northern B.C. First Nation communities hold “Rally for the river” in Prince George

Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nation have taken Rio Tinto BC Works to court over their operation and construction of the Kenney Dam

Want better internet? Complete an online survey by the RDBN

The regional district is doing a survey to understand internet requirements that… Continue reading

Vikings played well this season, says coach

The double-A varsity football team from NVSS received ten northern conference All-Stars

Salvation Army aims to raise $25,000 through the Christmas Kettle program

Last year the organization raised $20,000 for various social needs in the community

William Griffin arrested in Houston homicide

RCMP have now arrested William Griffin, the man wanted in connection to… Continue reading

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

Most Read