British Columbia

Tolko lumber mills to reduce operations at Soda Creek and Armstrong

Tolko Industries says it will move to a flexible schedule at its Soda Creek and Armstrong mills in order to reduce production, which will mean a reduced four-day work week for some employees.

Tolko Industries says the two mills will decrease production by 20%

Soda Creek mill operates out of the Williams Lake area and employs 180 people. (Tolko Industries)

B.C. lumber workers are bracing for reduced shifts at two Tolko mills — at Soda Creek and Armstrong — after the company announced it is curtailing production, citing high log costs in B.C., and weak market conditions.

The reduced operations will affect mills in Soda Creek, north of Williams Lake and Armstrong, north of Vernon. The operations will move to a four-day work week.

Troy Connolly, Tolko's vice president of solid wood, said it's a tumultuous time for the company and the forest industry, which has seen curtailments in lumber towns around the province affecting about 6,000 workers.

"Reducing capacity and changing our footprint is the best way to keep people employed and mills operating," Connolly said.

"It also gives us the flexibility to immediately react and adjust our schedule should conditions improve."

Last week, Tolko Industries announced the shutdown of its Kelowna sawmill, which put 127 people out of work.

The company said the shift reductions at the Soda Creek and Armstrong mills involve cutting down "operating stud capacity by 20 per cent."

Tolko's Armstrong division includes a lumber mill, a plywood plant, and a co-generation plant, which employ 400 people in total. (Tolko Industries)

Pat McGregor, president of the United Steelworkers local 1-423, said almost 200 workers at the Armstrong sawmill will experience a slowdown. However, a plywood plant, which is part of the Tolko operation, is not affected.

"They'll be moving to four-day work weeks for the next little while, and then there will be a decision made whether there needs to be further curtailments or some other programs that may be available," McGregor said.