Unifor leadership explores deeper forestry collaboration in Port Alberni

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Ten people standing indoors next to a totem pole.

Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle met with Minister of State for Sustainable Forestry Innovation Andrew Mercier and Local 592 and 686 leadership to tour the Paper Excellence Port Alberni facility on May 23, 2024. The Paper Excellence mill provides specialty products and good union jobs for the whole region.

Prior to the tour, Unifor representatives met with Mercier and his staff to discuss B.C.’s forestry industry, including the state of the Port Alberni pulp mill and long-term economical fibre supply. 

“British Columbia’s mills are competitive internationally and sustain communities in every region of the province,” said McGarrigle. “This government has made some progress in undoing the B.C. Liberals’ mess, but there is so much more work to be done, and we can be successful if we can all work together—labour, First Nations, governments—to make forestry a top priority. The solutions are there; but we need immediate action before things deteriorate further.” 

Despite the province’s enormous supply of timber, most of B.C.’s pulp and paper mills are struggling to find the fibre they require to operate on a consistent basis. As a result, the mills operate in a way that exposes workers and communities to the brunt of economic cycles and investment decisions. 

Fibre supply and strengthening B.C.’s entire forestry industry to grow good jobs and support forestry communities is a core component of the joint campaign initiated by Unifor, the United Steelworkers, and the PPWC. The campaign published a comprehensive paper that can be found online.

Unifor representatives were joined on the pulp mill tour by Tseshaht First Nations Chief Ken Watts. Afterwards, discussions were held about exploring working together on forestry and employment initiatives to help secure an ongoing local fibre supply.

During a lunch and meeting at the nation’s administrative buildings, Local 592 President Steve Smith and Local 686 President Steve Harvey joined the Unifor delegation to discuss wider collaboration with the Tseshaht on generating good jobs and opportunities for all families in the Alberni Valley.

Tseshaht First Nation lands extend from the Alberni Valley to the Broken Group Islands on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They are one of 14 Nations making up the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) people of western Vancouver Island. 

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Ian Boyko

National Communications Representative - Western Region