Tolko

Tolko’s lumber mill in Kelowna is closing for good, the company said Friday.

Regardless of the terminology used, the Tolko lumber mill in Kelowna is closed and will remain so 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 to the closure in sight, 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 Tuesday through Friday of next week.

Case management offers one-on-one support for affected workers from an adviser. 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 likely will be on employment insurance.

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

Such financial constraints mean 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 Armstrong and Lumby, with 550 workers, had six weeks of shutdown in the summer and now are 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 markets. Canfor, Conifex, Louisiana-Pacific, Norbord and Aspen Planers are among the other forestry companies closing mills, reducing shifts and laying off workers.