Unifor members from across Canada will meet with MPs next week to discuss how the federal government can save good Canadian jobs during Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement negotiations.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher for one of the largest sectors of Canada’s economy,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The Trudeau government must stop negotiating trade agreements from a position of fear and get a softwood deal that benefits Canadian forestry communities.”

As Canada’s third largest export sector, forestry directly employs 202,000 people in every region of the country. The forestry sector’s $24-billion positive trade balance represents a quarter of Canada’s total trade surplus.

Unifor says that Canada must have a strategy in place to protect the sector and Canadian jobs, including a contingency plan for unjustified U.S. tariffs. The impact of a sharp price increase if tariffs are introduced would be immediate. In the early 2000s when the U.S. imposed a combined duty of 27%, 15,000 Canadians were laid off within months.

“If Canada is caught off-guard by U.S. tariffs, the job losses will number in the thousands. Some communities and regions may never recover,” said Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to Unifor’s National President.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.