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Harmac workers receive holiday bonus

Curtis Spencer, Harmac bleach plant assistant, has worked at the mill for 35 years. His investment in shares when employees took over the operation in 2008 paid off Thursday when he and other employees received their first dividend cheques.  - Chris Bush photo
Curtis Spencer, Harmac bleach plant assistant, has worked at the mill for 35 years. His investment in shares when employees took over the operation in 2008 paid off Thursday when he and other employees received their first dividend cheques.
— image credit: Chris Bush photo

Three years of hard work is paying off for employees at Harmac Pacific.

The company announced Thursday it is handing out dividend cheques for the first time to all of its workers, giving families some extra spending money this Christmas.

In the fall of 2008, workers returned to the mill as part-owners after the former owners, Pope & Talbot, declared bankruptcy earlier that year. More than 200 workers each invested $25,000 and private investors, including Vancouver’s Sampson Group and Pioneer Log Homes, teamed up to buy the mill.

Proving all of the “nay sayers” wrong and building a successful business is a good feeling for Doug Narver, a machine tender who has worked at Harmac for the past 33 years.

“Everybody’s worked really hard to get where we are today,” he said. “They kept telling us, ‘No, you guys can’t do it, it’s impossible.’ I think everybody who came back had confidence.”

Curtis Spencer, who has worked at the mill for 35 years and is a third generation employee, said when an opportunity to become a part of the mill purchase came up, he thought he might as well take the chance – it was that or start a new career at age 50.

Getting the mill to this point has involved working long hours, said Spencer, especially at first.

“It’s paying off today and it’s going to pay off in the future,” said Spencer. “It’s not even about the money. It’s about going forward, it’s about the belief.”

With employees owning a stake in the business, issues are solved locally and much more quickly, he said, and there’s a lot less conflict with management.

“To know the ladder ends right here in this building is huge,” said Spencer. “We all work together to make it a safer and better place.”

The dividends are also just a bonus for Dan Dieleman, who has worked at the mill for 36 years.

“I’m glad to have my job back,” he said. “When the mill went down, I was 51 years old. We lost some benefits and some vacation to get the mill going. Slowly but surely we’ll get that back.”

The amount on the cheques varies from worker to worker, depending on the number of years each employee has and how many shares they have in the company.

While he could not disclose the amount of money paid out, Harmac president Levi Sampson said it averages out at about a few thousand dollars per person.

“Nobody works harder then an employee/owner and we’ve seen it pay off in spades,” he said. “I’m pretty fired up and emotional today.”

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