The biggest employer in Fraser Lake announcing job cuts is a “tough one” to navigate, said mayor Sarrah Storey.
On Aug. 9, West Fraser Timber Co. announced curtailment of its operations and 147 job cuts across its sites in Fraser Lake, Williams Lake and Quesnel. The sawmill in Fraser Lake saw the highest number of job cuts with 77 positions that will be affected in the fourth quarter of 2022 (October onward).
But it’s not just the 77 employees at the mill that are going to be affected, Storey said, referring to the auxiliary businesses, contractors, equipment providers and other small businesses connected to the operation.
Storey said they did not see this coming, especially at a time when Fraser Lake was getting back on its feet after previous mine closures caused economic downturns.
“We were told, not too long ago, that West Fraser was going to be open for quite a number of years, so it’s worrisome,” Storey said about the sudden announcement.
“Fraser Lake went through some really hard times and we’ve worked really hard to get out of it, ” she said, referring to the Endako mine closure in 2014, which affected 350 jobs. “We knew forestry was one of those things that could go next, but I don’t think you’re ever going to be ready for another industry closing.”
Storey said she met with officials from the mill and was told that the company’s decision to cut down on its operation in northern B.C. comes from the lack of access to fibre and new government policies.
The mayor is worried this move will affect the younger population who wanted to stay and live in Fraser Lake with a stable job. Storey said it will be sad losing good families in the region that contribute to the community through their service and volunteering.
The Village of Fraser Lake is working with the province on a transition plan for the workers whose employment will be affected due to the job cuts.
“We’re making sure that they have support and help so that they have opportunities for new jobs because it is an employees market right now with labour shortage,” she said, adding, there are lots of jobs available for people looking for work.