View From Labour, Feb 27th, 2009

As reported in the press yesterday Catalyst has closed two more mills for an indefinite time. The fact that what is left of the Alberni Operations is not included is good news in the short term for the Valley, but the workers devastated in Campbell River and Crofton are still our brothers and sisters. The closure of mills hardly gets notice anymore as it seems to be an almost daily occurrence somewhere in B.C. While Ottawa is considering throwing money at the Auto Makers, there seems to be no relief in Victoria or Ottawa for forest workers. Often we hear from mill operators that they can’t get affordable fibre, yet we see logs going out of our country steadily. The B.C. Government has broken the ties of the forest to the communities and mills. This is what the US did in the 1960s and now they need Canadian logs to run their mills.
Companies who export logs say they get a better price off shore or in the US than the Canadian mills can afford. Could this be because the workers in the foreign mills get paid $10.00 per day? Both the Provincial and Federal Government could change the tax structure for the Forest Companies so that it is more profitable for the private loggers to sell their wood in Canada than to export. However, there is no appetite to even try.
A first step to improve the situation, would be for all government contracts to be for Canadian workers only. Workers in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere do not pay Canadian taxes. Why subsidize them? This would help workers in all sectors. The argument that we don’t have enough Canadian workers is bogus. If we are short in some areas Canada can do what we did in the 1950s allow immigration of workers who want to become Canadians and fuel our economy. It worked then. Now if we do bring in workers we give them short term permits, poor working conditions and low wages to displace Canadians. How many people reading this came to Canada since 1945 or had parents who did? Unions became strong standing up for the rights of all workers. The IWA was one of the first unions to make sure all nationalities and both genders were paid equally. We must repeat that in all sectors of the economy.
We have two elections coming up. The B.C. Provincial election in May and the Federal election likely soon after. Make your vote count—question all the candidates on their stand of Canadian jobs for Canadian workers.
City Budget Meeting March 2nd 7:00 PM at City Hall
International Women’s Day March 8th .