Tolko

Tolko's lumber mill in Kelowna is in indeterminate shutdown, so special programs are now being offered by WorkBC for affected workers.

Regardless of the terminology used, the Tolko lumber mill in Kelowna is still closed and will be for the foreseeable future.

Back in September, Tolko announced the mill, which employed 140, would close "indefinitely" after a six-week shutdown Aug. 6 to Sept. 15.

On Wednesday, Tolko communications adviser Chris Downey redefined the closure as "indeterminate."

"We use those words because the facility is closed and will be until market conditions change for the better and it's deemed worthwhile to reopen," he said.

The indeterminate closure for the 140 workers comes after Tolko axed the entire second shift of 90 staff at the Kelowna mill on July 12.

With no end in site for the closure, WorkBC has designed special programming for impacted Tolko workers.

"The services and supports at our WorkBC Centres are free and are available to any workers affected by the shutdown," said WorkBC communications manager Jonathan Horvatin.

"We'll be offering special workshops to help you prepare for whatever comes next in your career. Join us for the next info session or apply to be a case-managed client to get the full benefit. You could be eligible for financial supports, skills training and job placement services."

The workshops will be offered next week, Tuesday through Friday.

Case management offers one-on-one support from an adviser for affected workers.

That can include access to job search resources, workshops, employment counselling, training, assessments and work experience placements.

Contact community co-ordinator Jacob May at 250-317-6396 or jacob.may@wcgservices.com for more information.

Many Tolko workers are probably running out of options by now.

After the six-week shutdown in the summer and the eight weeks of closure since, workers will have burned through any unused paid holiday time and will now likely be on employment insurance.

EI kicks in after a week of waiting time and pays only 55 per cent of average insurable weekly earnings to a maximum of $562 a week.

Such financial constraints means some workers are ready to consider a new job to get back to full earnings or train for a new career that pays a good wage.

Tolko permanently closed its mill in Quesnel on Aug. 2 putting 150 out of work.

The lumber, plywood and veneer operations in Armstong and Lumby, with 550 workers, had six weeks of shutdown in the summer and are now at 80% capacity.

That means the plants run four days a week instead of five and workers likely aren't able to collect employment insurance for the fifth day.

Tolko is not alone in this forestry crisis caused by weak markets and high log cost making B.C. wood uncompetitive in both the domestic and international makets.

Canfor, Conifex, Louisiana-Pacific, Norbord and Aspen Planers are among the other forestry companies closing mills, making shift reductions and laying off workers.

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