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Interfor's purchase of Springer Creek wood supply gives unionized workers partial severance

By Suzy Hamilton, The Nelson Daily

A deal is pending for International Forest  Products, Ltd (Interfor)  to acquire Springer Creek’s  wood supply which means the mill’s unionized workers would have some cash in their pockets.

An overwhelming majority of United Steelworkers Local 1-405 signed a memorandum of settlement January 3 that they would accept 75 percent of the severance owed them since the mill closed indefinitely in 2011.

“We’re talking about $3.2 million,” said Plant Chairman and executive union board member Leonard Black. 

That’s money that has not gone into wallets or the economy in 77  Slocan households, said Black.

“Junior people have suffered immensely . . . they’ve left the area. Young people have gone up north to work.”

“More senior people, it’s a bitter pill to swallow but we’ll move on with our lives,” he said.

Is this good news for the mill workers?

“It’s neither good nor bad. It’s frustrating.” said Black. The workforce has enjoyed years of employment at the mill,” he said.

“This isn’t what people wanted. We wanted to be able to contribute to our community.”

The sale  of Springer Creek’s timber holdings comes at  time when lumber prices are on the rise. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) lists lumber going for $380/1000 board feet, up $170 from last year at this time.

Analysts expect it to keep heading up.

However, it doesn’t look good for the mill and Springer Creek’s other assets as Interfor acquires the timber holdings only.

“This is quite likely the end of the line,” said Black.

“My opinion, and that’s all it is, really, is that sawmilling operation requires solid management and perhaps it was flawed. There were trucking and wood waste issues.

“If we go back to even before Springer Creek, when the rail line was taken out of the valley, that was the first nail in the coffin.”

The deal is expected to be finalized by March, 2013, at which time it will need approval from the provincial government.

Interfor, a multinational forest company operating in British Columbia and the US Pacific Northwest, bought Pope and Talbot in 2008  and retained ownership of the mills at Grand Forks and Castlegar and timber tenures in the Kootenays.

Black said it is not clear what will happen to Springer Creek’s other assets. “The Rosebery log dump “is just going to stew.”