The planer at Tolko’s Lakeview Division in Williams Lake has now shut down since a fire broke out last month at the sawmill.
“They’re still if you want to say mucking around in the wreck trying to see what’s good and what’s salvageable and what they need to do, says Paul French, first vice president of United Steelworkers Local 1-2017.
“The planer is now they’ve used up all of the wood so the planer crew has been laid off. Scheduling for next week is between 40-50 people.”
French says that about 20 have gone to Soda Creek and the Quest Division in Quesnel.
“Some of the junior people obviously seen the writing on the wall and went elsewhere. We did have a meeting with unemployment insurance and WorkBC so the offering is there for some upgrading; I know there are employees that are taking advantage of that.”
“We’re hopeful that this is just a slight hiccup in peoples’ lives and a little bit of pain and hopefully when that place is able to start running again that the majority of them or all of them come back.”
Today’s news brings the total number of employees laid off since the November 3 fire to more than 100.
French says that they are hoping that Tolko’s guesstimate of having the sawmill back to operation in 6 months will come through.
“There’s equipment they have to assess, the equipment they have to order, and then, of course, the structure of the building of how much do they have to take apart to rebuild and how to rebuild,” he explains.
“They’re still in the technical stage if you want to say so I think it’s good that they’re trying to find as much work for the employees as they can and hopefully things get better before they get worse.”
Mayor of Williams Lake, Walt Cobb said at a regular Council meeting on Tuesday that he had received a call from Brad Thorlakson who indicated to him that the rationale and reasoning that it will take up to 6 months to get it back up and operating is to do with the fact that there are opportunities of upgrading and that new equipment takes time to rebuild.
“My concern was that it was because of the winter and he said no; they are able to find structures that they can put up over the winter. The time to that it takes to replace some of that equipment is what’s taking 6 months,” he said.
Tolko did not return a request for comment by press time.