Union targets raw log exports in rally

A couple hundred people, mainly current or former forestry workers, joined a rally in downtown Nanaimo Wednesday calling on the province to ban the export of raw logs.

A couple hundred people, mainly current or former forestry workers, joined a rally in downtown Nanaimo Wednesday calling on the province to ban the export of raw logs.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer – keep the wood here, create jobs,” said Arnie Bercov,  president of the local branch of the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada union.

The union organized a similar event last year and more rallies will be planned for the near future, he said.

“We’re going to try and keep the pressure on, so we’re going to do more of them,” said Bercov.

Rally participants marched from the union’s headquarters on Albert Street to Maffeo Sutton Park, stopping at the Dunsmuir Street Western Forest Products offices and Island Timberlands offices on Front Street on the way.

Bercov said pulp mills like Harmac use residual wood from sawmills and when sawmills are not running, the supply dries up.

“We’re surviving, but we’re certainly paying a high price for fibre,” he said.

Rick Jeffery, president of Coast Forest Products Association, said forest companies have reopened four sawmills on the coast and added shifts to others this year.

“The harvest is up this year and better yet, lumber production is up by 30 per cent,” he said. “We are producing as much pulp and paper and lumber as we can sell.”

One of the reasons Western was able to reopen the Ladysmith sawmill this year is revenue from raw log exports, Jeffery added.

“The issue is not about banning raw log exports, the issue is collectively working together to increase the size of our markets and market share,” he said.

“The best way to slow down [rag law exports] is for us to build markets for our products.”