Layoff notices have gone out and the last log is set to be processed at Canfor’s Houston mill March 31, setting in motion a phasing out of the facility’s operations.
“The kiln will shut down approximately two weeks later, followed by the planer a week later. All operations are anticipated to be wrapped up by the end of April,” said Canfor official Michelle Ward of what will happen over the next weeks.
While production employees are on layoff, Canfor said the company is working to place people in jobs elsewhere if they so wish.
And hourly workers are being provided what the company is calling a transition payment.
Canfor released the news it was closing the mill the end of January, citing high logging costs and an uncertain timber supply.
At the same time, the company said it wanted to build a new mill more suited to its operations and set June as the date when that decision will be made.
Should a new mill be built, the company is forecasting a construction period of two years.
And should a new mill be built, Canfor is extending seniority for all hourly workers indefinitely, a move that will ensure workers are called back to work at their current seniority level, Ward said.
“In addition, a top priority for the union was extended health care coverage, which includes coverage for items like prescriptions,” added Ward of negotiations with the United Steelworkers Union that represents workers at the mill.
“We supported this request and it is in place until July 31, 2025 or the new mill starts up, whichever comes first.”
A small number of workers will remain at the facility to provide security and maintenance.
“The existing sawmill will largely stay intact until a final decision is made about building a new sawmill on the site,” Ward said.
Canfor will continue to log wood under licence, something that will keep contractors and the company’s woodlands management group employed.
“We will be making volume available to other manufacturers in the region for purchase. Some volume could be transported to other nearby Canfor facilities depending on market conditions,” Ward continued.
“In anticipation of a positive decision to rebuild our sawmill in Houston, we want to support continued forestry activities in the region.”
A continuing customer for Canfor’s wood could be the Drax pellet facility immediately adjacent to the sawmill.
Drax so far has not commented on its plans other than to say it is evaluating the effect of the sawmill closure.
Canfor does have an ownership stake in the pellet plant and draws 40 per cent of the fibre it needs from the mill and 20 per cent from Canfor’s woodlands.