TORONTO – The United Steelworkers union (USW) welcomes the announcement from the U.S. Department of Commerce that tariffs for some Canadian lumber products are being reduced, but the union maintains that solving the softwood lumber dispute must be made a priority in Canada.
“Our 14,000 members working in the forest industry across Canada have suffered layoffs and mill closures over the last several years of tariffs that are the result of the unresolved softwood lumber dispute with the U.S.,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.
“There is $4.6-billion dollars in tariffs sitting at the border, while lumber suppliers from mainly European countries have unfettered access to the U.S. market that used to be available to Canadian producers,” Neumann said.
“This dispute is the unfinished business of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) reached last year. It has to end if our Canadian forest industry is to be sustainable going forward. More than 600 Canadian communities are dependent on forestry. It is part of our economic history and, as a renewable resource, must be a part of our economic future.”
USW Wood Council Chair Jeff Bromley added the union is continuing its campaign with the federal government and other members of Parliament to exert pressure to end the tariff grab, which has resulted in thousands of job losses and export decreases in excess of 6.7 billion board feet since duties were imposed in 2017.
“The union’s campaign is calling for a strategy that, in addition to coming to a new agreement with the U.S., should provide loan guarantees to struggling forestry companies, equalling 75% of the amount they have paid in duties,” said Bromley.
“Many small mills are suffering from weak cash flow,” added Neumann. “At the same time, loan guarantees must also be directly tied to creating jobs in Canada. Large companies must not be able to take funds and invest them in their U.S. operations. There must be clear strings attached.”
For additional information on the USW campaign, which includes permanent reforms to Employment Insurance access for forestry workers, go to www.forestryisforeveryone.ca.