Observer file photo

Observer file photo

UPDATE: West Fraser to permanently reduce production in Quesnel, Fraser Lake

The move will affect 75 employees in Quesnel, 60 in Fraser Lake

UPDATE:

After West Fraser’s Nov. 13 announcement that its third sawmill shift in both Quesnel and Fraser Lake would be permanently shut down from January 2019, the Observer caught up with Brian Balkwill, vice president of Canadian Wood Products, to obtain more details on the layoffs.

Balkwill said the change will be permanent after January, and is due to log shortages, rather than the market. He told the Observer that West Fraser had increased its production and harvesting to salvage timber affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle while it was still viable, always knowing it would mean reducing production later on.

“The logs are no longer available to sustain the mills at the current production level. We are dropping back down so essentially our production levels in the mill will match the timber supply. That’s our strategy. It’s not about short-term markets. … It’s more about trying to match our production capacity with the available timber,” he said.

He said the increase in log price as the timber supply drops has meant that it’s not economically viable for the company to travel farther distances outside the timber supply area to get logs.

The third shifts in the Quesnel and Fraser Lake sawmills will be shut down as of Jan. 14, 2019, affecting 50 workers in Quesnel and 40 in Fraser Lake. Balkwill said the additional workers affected (25 in Quesnel and 20 in Fraser Lake) will be in the planer mill, and these shifts will be curtailed once the crews run though the inventory.

“It’ll be weeks after [Jan. 14] that we’ll continue on three shifts [in the planer mill] until we get our inventory level where we want it to be. It’ll probably be the end of the first quarter, into the second quarter, where we’ll have our inventory back where we want it to be.”

West Fraser said in its Nov. 13 press release that it hopes to offer the 135 affected employees jobs at other divisions within the company. Balkwill said it will be easier for employees to remain in their community in Quesnel, with the company having two pulp mills, an MDF plant, plywood plant and sawmill in town.

“That will increase our ability to have people take on positions in those plants,” he explained.

“In Fraser Lake, we only have the one facility, so the opportunities for people to do something in Fraser Lake with our company will be limited, so they’ll be looking at opportunities at our other divisions in B.C. or Alberta.”

He said as long as employees are willing to relocate, West Fraser has committed to finding positions 135 workers.

As to the future, Balkwill said he’s hopeful these production cuts will bring the company back in alignment with log supply so that no further cuts are needed.

“We will continue to look at it as the markets change … there are a lot of things that impact available timber supply. It’s tough for me to say this is the end, but at this time we don’t have any other plans [for cuts],” he commented.

West Fraser supplies lumber to the Canadian and U.S. markets, as well as China and Japan.

The news of West Fraser’s production cuts comes after Quesnel’s Tolko Questwood division shut down operations in mid-October. Tolko cited high log costs and poor market conditions as the reason for the decision.

Conifex in Fort St. James will also be shut down for at least four weeks as of Monday this week (Nov. 12). Canfor’s sawmill in Prince George has also curtailed production at its sawmill.

ORIGINAL:

West Fraser sawmills in Quesnel and Fraser Lake will be eliminating the third shift at each sawmill to reduce lumber production, according to a news release dated Nov. 13.

The curtailment of approximately 300 million board feet of combined lumber is expected to impact around 75 employees in Quesnel and 60 in Fraser Lake over the first and second quarter of 2019.

The company said in a news release it expects to mitigate the impact on affected employees by offering them work opportunities at other West Fraser operations.

West Fraser attributed the cuts to the B.C. timber supply shortage after the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation.

“Today’s decision better aligns West Fraser’s production with current timber supply,” said the release.

READ MORE: Tolko to curtail operations in Quesnel



editor@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

District of Vanderhoof municipal office. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof district rejects FOI request for business name

Officials will release more information about the restaurant on May 21

Audrey McKinnon is seeking the NDP nomination for the federal riding of Cariboo-Prince George. (Twitter)
Audrey McKinnon puts name forward for NDP for federal election

McKinnon preparing for a contested nomination for Prince George-Cariboo riding

Michael Rees at his studio on the first floor of the old Burrard Market Square building. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Painter and print-maker showcased at Vanderhoof Street Art Show

Michael Rees uses narrative in a majority of his work

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
B.C. man finds men who rescued him from drowning in Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person, when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Most Read