West Kelowna  

Gorman Bros. trims workforce as timber supply dries up

Mill trims workforce

The Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd. sawmill in West Kelowna is making a small reduction to its workforce in the face of industry-wide challenges as timber supply dries up in B.C.

The mill recently announced layoffs impacting 11 employees. Gorman Bros. previously employed just under 300 in West Kelowna, CEO Nick Arkle told Castanet.

Arkle said the layoffs are “regrettable” but “inevitable” as the mill adjusts to shrinking timber supply in the province.

B.C.’s mountain pine beetle outbreak in early 2000s resulted in the loss of millions of hectares of pine forest, something that is now starting to negatively impact the industry as beetle-killed trees have all either been salvage logged or have rotted.

On top of that, the provincial government last year paused the logging of old-growth forests, removing additional timber supply.

“We have seen many curtailments and closures across the province and while, more recently, some of these curtailments are market-driven the overriding impact is a reflection of less timber being available for the existing mill operations,” Arkle said.

He said they have been working to minimize the impact on employees as much as possible, “but there is no hiding from the fact that as timber supply gets impacted so do jobs.”

Interfor, which operates six mills in B.C., announced last week it is cutting lumber output by 17%, blaming reduced demand.

Canfor is just reopening its pulp mill in Prince George, B.C. after a month-long curtailment driven by a lack of timber supply. West Fraser also recently announced curtailments of its pulp mill in Quesnel, which followed the layoff of 147 workers in Fraser Lake, Williams Lake and Quesnel where shifts were eliminated due to a lack of timber supply.

That makes the staff reductions at Gorman Bros. comparably minor, something that can be attributed to the mill’s focus on high-value and specialized wood products.

While large corporations like Tolko and Weyerhaeuser have closed mills and pulled out of the southern half of the Okanagan Valley, the family-owned Gorman Bros. has been resilient by outputting products like flooring, wall panels, baseboards and more.

Arkle says they will stick to that business model.

“We are a company that meets the government's desire to see more production of high-value products and to get more from less,” he said. “We will continue to have that focus and take it to another level with more investment in even further remanufacturing. This will protect jobs and hopefully create more in the future.”

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