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Management Side
Tolko commits to rebuild fire-damaged facility in Williams Lake

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. (From news reports) -- Tolko Industries Ltd. said it is committed to rebuild its Lakeview Division sawmill where a fire damaged offices in the building earlier this month, but confirmed the sawmill could remain closed until next May.

"It's hard to say exactly how long the mill will be down for at this time as the engineering for the rebuild has yet to be completed," senior general manager, lumber Troy Connolly said. "It could be as long as six months."

On Tuesday, Nov. 14 Tolko met with United Steelworkers Union Local 2017 to provide mill employees with an update.

The company's communications advisor Janice Lockyer told the Tribune Wednesday the company informed employees there is "definitely" a commitment to rebuild.

"Right now they are doing some debris cleaning and then they will be working on the engineering and design phase," she said.

At this point, the cause of the fire is still under investigation and it will take a few more weeks before the company receives an investigation report, Lockyer added, noting the planer has continued to operate since Nov. 6, and will be running for "a little while yet."

"In the interim Tolko has issued records of employment to Service Canada and is working with the union to see if there are ways to shift employees around. We haven't concluded it yet, but we are talking to the union to see what we can do at both Quesnel and Soda Creek."

So far there is no estimation on the cost of the damage from the fire, although Lockyer described it as "considerable."

Union first vice-president Paul French said Wednesday he knows everyone is pleased with the announcement that Lakeview is going to be rebuilt.

"We are meeting with the company to make sure as many employees as possible stay employed and continue to receive a paycheque," French told the Tribune. "We are lobbying government to help with unemployment insurance and other opportunities that may be available to our employees."

French said the union hopes the reconstruction of the mill goes well.

"It's an unfortunate situation we hope ends sooner rather than later," French noted.

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