Unifor members, employers and allies rallied in five key forestry communities across the country on June 19 to tell the federal government that a negotiated deal with the U.S. for fair trade in softwood lumber must be a top priority.
The Americans levied a 20 per cent “countervailing” tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports in May 2017 and are expected to levy an “anti-dumping” tariff this month. Experts say that Canadian lumber prices have surged 18 per cent to compensate for the duties, something that makes Canadian mills less competitive and layoffs and closures a certainty.
In response to pressure from Unifor, the federal government announced a $867 million aid package on June 1 to help cushion the blow to the industry. National President Jerry Dias said the package is an important tool, but the end game must be a negotiated trade deal.
“We are very encouraged at the government’s responsiveness but the job’s not done, Canada needs a fair deal,” said Dias. “The government must negotiate from a position of strength and stand up for good forestry jobs.”
Unifor has a right to be concerned about the impact of U.S. duties on softwood lumber jobs. During the last softwood dispute the U.S. government levied 27 per cent in combined duties, causing nearly 15,000 Canadian forestry jobs to be lost.
The rallies were held in Saint John (Irving), Amos (Resolute), Baie-Comeau (Resolute), Jonquière (Resolute), and Thunder Bay (Resolute). With 23,000 members across 134 employers, Unifor is Canada’s forestry union and forestry accounts for over 200,000 direct jobs in 650 communities.