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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003

    Hunger Relief Caravan for Hazelton Workers

    Laid off pulp mill workers in the devastated North Coast region are asking for help in feeding their families, after the closure of the Skeena Cellulose mill by the Liberal government, and calls have gone out to form a car caravan carrying food and other essentials to the area.

    “When the Liberals sold Skeena Cellulose, the buyer closed the doors of the Hazelton mill.  Over 100 workers were left without jobs,” says Joy Langan, a regional representative for the Communicaiton, Energy and Paperworkers, whose members worked at the mill. “That was two years ago, and CEP members have been trying to get the mill reopened ever since. The new owner cut timber and sold off raw logs.  Then it attempted to sell the heavy moveable equipment at the mill.”

    CEP members and community residents have set up a blockade to keep any equipment from being removed from the mill. The workers, who had bought shares in the mill in return for wage concessions, are livid that the mill was sold off and closed without their input or approval.

    “CEP members lobbied the District of Hazelton and the District placed a lien on the equipment for unpaid taxes,” she said.  “The employer then called for bids to sell the fixed equipment in the mill.  The union began a blockade to stop the owner from dismantling and selling off the mill piece by piece.”

    The union had been pushing to have the mill turned over to the workers to run as a community based cooperative. However, the Liberal regime sold it to a corporate buyer who was mainly interested in the former company’s timber rights.

    With little opportunity for business or employment in the region, many of the former employees are nearing starvation or losing their homes, Langan says. She is asking union members across the province to help out by contributing to the caravan, which is being organized for the end of this month.

    “All CEP members have run out of Employment Insurance benefits,” she said.  “Some have received  welfare, but under the new Liberal rules, many have not qualified. There are a few casual jobs around Hazelton, but most workers are desperate and they and their families are hungry. They can't even put gas in their tanks to get to the blockade.”

    Anyone interested in helping out or getting more information can reach Langan by phone at 604-945-6616, or by e-mail at joy_langan@telus.net.


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