By Mike Aiken, KENORA ONLINE
For the first time in almost eight years, Kenora Forest Products is producing lumber. Months of renovations and testing finally came to an end on Monday, February 15th, as dozens of workers returned to the site.
“Unifor has worked closely with KFP management to help re-start this sawmill, and we are extremely pleased to see that lumber production has now resumed and dozens of workers are back on the job in Kenora,” said Unifor spokesman Steve Boon in a prepared statement Monday.
The union signed a six-year deal in August of 2014 calling for an 18 per cent increase, during the life of the contract. A year later, skilled workers received an increase, as the company moved to attract and retain staff for the start-up. Their total pay increased by over 58 per cent to $41.79 an hour, and to the top of eastern Canada’s sawmill industry.
The company held an open house last June, where they asked for applications to help fill 105 positions, in hopes of having about 40 per cent aboriginal.
Also known as the stud mill, for its production of lumber for framing in wood construction, Prendiville Industries acquired the mill in 1994. Before the shutdown, the mill had produced 80 million board feet of high quality SPF building studs from 9′ to 5′ along with a range of 1″ products in various lengths.
In recent months, in preparation for the restart, contractors and some sawmill staff had been working on a $30 million capital expansion. The expansion includes an addition to the sawmill, almost two stories high, to match the existing roof line of the mill. The addition is almost the full length of the building, and that will hold a small log line, to process small logs.
The plans also included a 100 ft. dry kiln, to dry lumber, but the company said the biggest change will be on the planer. Their plans were to add a shed, and a building, where a lumber sorter and stacker could go.
While the last softwood lumber deal expired in the fall, Kenora MP Bob Nault — who is the new chairman for the foreign affairs and international trade committee in Ottawa — says the new federal government in Ottawa says getting a new agreement and ensuring access to the American market for Ontario companies is a top priority.This article was originally published by Kenora Online, February 15, 2016. Reproduced by permission.