Leveling the playing field

by Derek Clouthier

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The B.C. Truck Loggers Association (TLA) is hopeful the provincial government’s announcement that it intends to review the forest industry’s problems will help level the playing field for all who are employed in the sector.

The issue of contractor sustainability has been at the forefront of the TLA’s advocacy efforts for years, and executive director David Elstone said that undertaking has been about much more than rates.

“It is about creating the conditions within the industry that will allow independent contractors and owner operators to work with the major license holders (their employers) in a sustainable manner, to be able to hire and train workers to operate safely, to invest in innovation and equipment to reduce costs and, at the end of the day, to be able to pay their bills and plan for the future,” Elstone said, adding that a weakening of the supply chain has put the entire industry at risk.

The government’s review is expected to show a current economic picture of the status of logging contractors across B.C., one that Elstone believes will show just how bad the financial situation is for contractors.

Elstone said since the bottom of the economic downturn in 2009, major license holders have rebounded significantly.

“For contractors, however, the difficult economics of logging and trucking have not changed and many contractors have had to seek insolvency protection or have simply left the industry,” Elstone said.

Elstone believes the major players in the forest industry will once again look to contractors to help ‘share the pain’ during the next economic downturn, but given that most contractors have not yet pulled themselves out of the last slump there is little room for them to withstand continued cost reductions.

“Contractors will continue to go under and leave the business,” he said. “The entire industry will be put at risk.”

Elstone said the government has committed to having the process in place before the end of March.

The B.C. government made the announcement during the TLA’s 74th Annual Convention and Trade Show in Vancouver Jan. 19.

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