B.C. funds measures to help forestry workers hurt by downturn

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — The British Columbia government has put $69 million in a fund that will support forestry workers affected by mill closures and shift reductions in the Interior.

Dozens of mills in the province have been closed or cut back operations because of a reduced supply and higher log prices.

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The government says Premier John Horgan and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson met with the CEOs of major Interior forests companies to establish measures that will support forest workers in the months and years ahead.

The measures including a $40-million fund for early-retirement bridging for older workers, $15 million for a short-term employment program, and $12 million for worker skills training and for employer and community training grants.

Donaldson says in a news release that he's hoping those in the Interior forest sector recognize that a new industry will arise with the skills workers need to produce new forests products.

The minister also called on the forest industry to increase supports for workers, to ensure corporate leaders are working on an industry transition and that industry does a better job of communicating with affected workers.

The United Steelworkers Union, which represents 12,000 forestry workers in B.C., says any move that helps workers is welcome but permanent solutions for workers, families and forest-dependent communities are also needed.

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