Overwaitea Foods manager in Burns Lake

Help for mill workers come from Steelworkers union and Overwaitea

Employees of the Babine Forest Products sawmill recently received a welcome back present.

Employees of the Babine Forest Products sawmill who are either returning or who are eligible to return to work at the rebuilt mill recently received a welcome back present.

Bob Matters, Wood Council Chair for United Steelworkers Union, said the union saved some money apart from the funds they provided the Burns Lake effort to assist affected workers of the 2012 mill fire to create their own supports for employees. He said these eligible workers were each given a $625 gift card for Overwaitea Foods.

“We approached Overwaitea [Foods] and Overwaitea also kicked in a significant amount of money,” said Matters. “It’s always a bit of a dilemma [to] how you give money away. People have different needs, but we thought everybody has to eat no matter what their other needs are so we approached Overwaitea and Overwaitea was kind enough to throw in a significant amount of money. We were able to purchase gift cards at Overwaitea and it worked out to $625 [for each worker].”

Matters said roughly 125 gift cards were given out to the former employees who either returned to work or were eligible to return as a way to reward these workers for their allegiance to the mill. He said the gift cards have now all been distributed and no funds were given in this campaign to workers at the rebuilt mill who did not work at the former sawmill or to any former employees who left after the deadly blaze almost three years ago.

“Some people have moved on and decided not to go back,” he said. “Right or wrong I made the decision that those people who come back to work and who support the company [and] the fellow workers in the community [to] share the money.”

Matters said the welcome back present was funded by contributions from everyday British Columbians along with donations by Overwaitea Foods and the Steelworkers Union. He said the idea to save some funds for distribution to former employees returning or eligible to return to work had been a union plan since the Burns Lake fund-distribution program ended over a year ago. Overwaitea Foods contribution to the gift card program was in the amount of $10,000.