After millions of dollars in upgrades over the past year, 30 Unifor union members are now back at work producing lumber on the first sawmill shift at Kenora Forest Products.

Unifor national representative Stephen Boon said Friday that “this operation closed during the height of the 2008 U.S. housing crash and we are extremely pleased to see the company’s ongoing commitment to this operation has finally restored lumber production to Kenora along with the return of up to 110 well-paying unionized mill jobs by this summer.
“We worked closely with management throughout this process and in return for providing the long-term stability necessary for a successful mill expansion and start-up, Unifor members agreed to a six-year labour agreement in early 2015 that increases employee pay to near the top of Eastern Canada’s sawmill sector.

“Under terms of the deal, licensed trades pay will increase by about 58.5 per cent to $41.79/hour, with production pay rising by over 18 per cent to almost $28/hour by 2020,” Boon added.

In preparation for the restart of the mill owned by Prendiville Industries, contractors and some sawmill staff had been working on a $30-million capital expansion. The expansion includes a two-storey addition to the mill, a small log processing line, a dry kiln and a new lumber planer.

With the upgrades, total production at the Kenora mill will be increased by over 50 per cent to over 120 million board feet annually.