According to Comfor Management Services Ltd. (CMSL) president Quentin Beach, two long term employees of the company were released last week to make way for company restructuring.
At 10:20 a.m. last Thursday, the Burns Lake RCMP were called to the CMSL office for an employee disturbance, however no further information was given.
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that CMSL executive assistant Michael Riis-Christianson and Burns Lake Community Forest general manager Dawn Stronstad were the long term employees that were released from the company.
In an email sent to Lakes District News last Thursday afternoon, Stronstad said, “I will no longer be employed by Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd. effective this date.”
Lakes District News asked Riis-Christianson for comment and in an email he stated, “On the advice of counsel, I cannot comment at this time, other than to confirm that I was terminated without cause.”
Lakes District News attempted to reach Stronstad for further comment, however no response was given before press time.
Via a subsequent press release, Beach said the CMSL board of directors made the decision to restructure the company in an effort to streamline operations. “As a result, two senior staff members of Burns Lake Community Forest and CMSL have been released from the company,” Beach said. He said that due to the labour relations law, he could not say who the long term employees that were released are, if a severance package was given to the employees, or if any notice was given to the two employees.
He said he also could not provide any details about why the RCMP were called to the office.
“It is difficult to reduce staff … it’s always a difficult situation, but I can’t comment any further,” he added.
As for who will now be controlling operations at CMSL and Burns Lake Community Forest, Beach said, “The board is in charge of CMSL and in charge of Burns Lake Community Forest … it has always been this way. We still have a number of employees working for CMSL’s subsidiaries including Henry Wiebe and Mike Werrell. We are restructuring and we are advertising for a new manager,” Beach added.
CMSL has now advertised for a payroll accounting clerk and a general manager.
According to Beach, recent events in the community and potential changes to fibre supply regulations have led the board to review the structure of the company and to investigate other successful community forest models in B.C.
He said, “Since the Babine Forest Products disaster, it has been important to the board that CMSL plays a key role in the process … there is changing fibre supply issues, which could be an opportunity for CMSL.”
A cost benefit analysis will be completed to determine the best possible structure for the company and any other employees, while maintaining the original intent of the Community Forest.
The board of directors believe that a new model will ensure that the long term vision of the Community Forest is achieved and that relationships with First Nations partners are renewed.
Beach said the new model is still a work in progress and he expects the restructuring to be an eight to 12 month process.
“This restructuring begins the process of getting the Burns Lake Community Forest back to the initial vision. We recognize the criticisms that have occurred and in keeping with a mandate of openness, this is a first step. We are trying to be positive and create a healthy situation and move forward. We want to be as transparent as possible. CMSL is a positive part of this community,” he added.
CMSL director Wes Sam said, “We are excited to be moving forward with a new model for the Community Forest, in partnership with the shareholder [Village of Burns Lake]. We have looked forward to some change and this board is prepared to make that change happen.”
According to Beach, the proposed model will offer contract and business opportunities to local companies, therefore fulfilling the desire to spread the economic benefit throughout the local community.
Beach said the board of directors of CMSL is committed to the vision of the Community Forest and believes that moving forward we will be able to create a model that is economical, more efficient and will continue to meet the needs of residents of the Lakes District.