A lagging lumber supply has led West Kelowna’s Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd. to let go of at least 20 employees.
Nick Arkle, Gorman’s co-CEO, told Okanagan Edge the mill has cut down its third shift over the past few weeks as it adjusts to a dwindling supply of logs left over from the Mountain Pine Beetle’s massacre of B.C. forests.
The mountain pine beetle lays its eggs under tree bark, and in high enough numbers can devastate forests.
In the 1990s and 2000s mountain pine beetle numbers skyrocketed in B.C, and by 2012 the outbreak had impacted more than 18 million hectares of B.C.’s forests and killed a staggering 53 per cent of merchantable pine.
Lumber mills have been gobbling up those dead trees for years, but Arkle says timber stands are “now being brought back down to the long-term sustainable levels,” and mills have to adjust.
“This was always expected. Many mills in the province are carefully balancing their operations to the available timber supply in a way that causes minimal disruptions,” Arkle said.
Arkle said Gorman’s adjustments have seen its first two shifts maintain a “fairly routine” supply of timber, but that running a third shift was leading to “very tight log inventories.”
Although Gorman classified its third shift as “full-time” employees, allowing them to keep their full benefits, the employees were essentially standby workers.
Arkle said those standby workers were getting called less and less, and it was getting to the point where they weren’t going to get any work at all.
At that point, Arkle said, it was in those people’s interest to look for another source of income or help from the government.
“We felt it was unfair to keep them on standby when they may not get that call to come into work for a long time, or even at all,” he said.
“While we will never underestimate the impact this has on any individual, and especially those that had planned on a long career in the industry, we also know that most of these employees had only been with us for six months to a year so hopefully a change is very possible for them.”
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