Roughly 500 employees at the Surrey-based Teal-Jones Group will lose their jobs.
Teal-Jones Group reduced its logging on the B.C. coast in May and has now shut down the remainder, including harvest operations in the Fraser Valley and at Honeymoon Bay on Vancouver Island.
Gerrie Kotze, vice-president and chief financial officer at Teal-Jones, told the Now-Leader that about 300 contractors on Vancouver Island and in the Fraser Valley lost their jobs, “effective immediately.”
He said Teal-Jones has two lumber mills and a shake-and-shingle mill along the Fraser River in Surrey, where about 500 people are employed.
“This creates a very real risk of curtailment,” Kotze said.
Bill Fulk is one of the hundreds of employees at Teal-Jones in Surrey. He’s worked for the company since 1983.
“We’re not shutting down the mills right now, but the problem is is we have a wood supply for so long, and it’s supposedly eight weeks. Without us logging our own TFL (tree farm licences), we don’t have the log supply to continue to keep us going.”
But Fulk estimates it will be less than eight weeks.
“People are nervous here. People are worried,” he said. “A lot of people here are like me and they’ve been here for years and years, and they don’t know any other job, They just know the wood industry and the wood industry, it built B.C.”
Teal-Jones, Kotze said, is not the only company shutting down.
“It’s also important to understand that there are many companies partially curtailing or completely curtailing their logging operations on the coast, so we fully expect curtailments through the fall and winter of this year,” said Kotze, adding he “can’t estimate exactly when and how much, but we do expect curtailments.”
The company says continued low lumber prices and high costs for B.C. logs has forced the move.
Fulk said the wood industry is getting “smaller and smaller,” with mills shutting down in different communities.
“There’s going to be ghost towns because it’s hard to find an employee to come the wood industry because people are seeing that it’s going down and down and down,” said Fulk, adding that it’s becoming very difficult to find employees “that trust that the wood industry will continue on.”
As for the future, Fulk said he doesn’t have a plan “as of yet.”
“I’m a little nervous myself. I’ve got five years to go to retirement, so it’s scary what’s happening,” he said. “People when they’re stressed out about this. They’re not focused on the task at hand. People’s minds go a little fast and it’s very difficult.”
In a release from the BC Liberal Caucus, Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies said Tuesday’s (Sept. 10) announcement “is just the latest in a series of closures and curtailments that are hitting closer and closer to home for Surrey residents.”
It’s the latest in a series of mill closures and curtailments across the province, with Interior lumber operations dealing with reduced cut in the aftermath of beetle epidemics and fires. On the coast, Teal-Jones and other operators say provincial stumpage remains high after lumber prices fell dramatically since the beginning of 2019.
“Current high stumpage rates remain high relative to lumber prices, and harvesting costs have been adversely impacted by new regulations to bring out more residual waste fibre,” said Kotze. “These negative factors have made it impossible for the company to continue its forest licences economically.”
Teal-Jones’ announcement comes a day after West Fraser Timber said it is curtailing operations at all five of its B.C. operations, effective Sept. 16. They include plywood and sawmills at Williams Lake and Quesnel, and mills in 100 Mile House, Fraser Lake and Chetwynd.
B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has moved to restrict log exports from the B.C. coast, and require forest companies to seek ministry permission to transfer Crown timber rights. One transfer awaiting approval is Canfor’s $60 million sale of timber rights, after shutting down its Vavenby sawmill north of Kamloops.
Interfor wants to buy the timber to keep its historic Adams Lake sawmill operating.