Canada’s unions are welcoming today’s announcement that the federal government is taking steps to support forest sector workers and communities affected by the United States’ imposition of duties on Canadian softwood exports.
“The forestry sector is one of Canada’s key economic drivers and these unfair and unjustified U.S. duties threaten more than 25,000 good jobs in nearly every region of our country,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.
“The CLC is pleased that the government is acting quickly and taking concrete steps to help affected workers, communities and companies,” he added.
In particular, the CLC welcomes the following steps announced today:
- Reducing lay-offs by extending the maximum period for Work Sharing agreements from 38 weeks to 76 weeks;
- Expanding access to retraining and skills development programs to help workers transition to new jobs;
- Wage insurance or “Targeted Earnings Supplements” for workers who find new jobs that pay less;
- Federal loans and loan guarantees from the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to help forestry companies in the short and medium term; and
- Investments to diversify export markets overseas and promote the diversification of the forest products sector in Canada.
Yussuff said he was pleased to see the federal government adopt some of the measures proposed by the CLC and its member unions, and was hopeful there was more to come.
“Today’s announcement is a good first step for addressing a dispute that could drag on for years. We look forward to working with the government to build on this relief package to ensure no workers are left behind as the situation evolves,” he said.
“We’d like to see an extension of Employment Insurance benefits for workers in hardest-hit regions, a move that made an enormous difference to workers and communities affected by falling oil prices in 2015 and 2016,” he added.
Yussuff said the CLC believes that a negotiated settlement is in the best interests of both Canada and the United States, and that he looks forward to supporting efforts to negotiate a new Softwood Lumber Agreement which gives Canada fair access to the U.S. market.