The provincial government has announced another step in its commitment to have supports in place for contractors, workers and communities impacted by indefinite and permanent mill closures in B.C.’s Interior.
The end of the mountain pine beetle harvest and low lumber prices, and the ongoing Canada/U.S. trade dispute are creating uncertainty in many Interior communities. To support workers and communities, government has already allocated $69 million to fund forest worker support programs to help reduce the impact of job losses on communities and support community resilience, forest enhancement and wildfire prevention in the Interior.
Now, through a web portal – https://forestryworkersupport.gov.bc.ca/ – impacted workers, contractors and communities can easily access forest worker support programs online. The web portal includes the latest information and application details for the retirement bridging program, the forest employment program, community support grants, and training opportunities and funding.
Applications are now being accepted for the retirement bridging program. Mill workers who are employees of a forestry company in the B.C. Interior may be eligible to receive combined funding of up to $75,000, depending on their individual employment history and situation, to help in their transition to retirement. Eligibility information and applications are available at community Service BC offices or online at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/supports-for-forestry-workers/retirement-bridging-program
Through the forest employment program, affected contractors in the Interior will be able to bid on short-term employment opportunity projects near communities directly impacted by a permanent or indefinite mill closure. Contracts for projects under the forest employment program will be administered through Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development regional offices using government procurement processes with a focus on impacted contractors and workers.
More information on the forest employment program, including an initial list of projects, is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content?id=B58E4273B58F4FEB9FA78E0E75245C1F
More projects will be added to this list in the coming weeks.
Work is also underway to open community-based job placement co-ordination offices in communities hardest hit by mill closures in the coming weeks: Fort St. James, Fort St. John, Mackenzie, 100 Mile House and Clearwater. Once open, these offices will support impacted forest workers by assessing their individual needs and goals, connecting them to government programs and services, matching them with available industry jobs, and engaging with employers and unions.
Government has contracted Frank Everitt and Terry Tate to co-ordinate the services of the job placement offices. Both Everitt and Tate have extensive experience and knowledge of the forest industry in British Columbia and the challenges of transitioning displaced forest workers.
Additional job placement and skills training programs will be announced in the next few weeks.