It was 15 years of Gwen LaChapelle’s life and now it has abruptly come to an end.
LaChapelle and approximately 50 other employees received notice last month that Errington Cedar Products, a family-owned mill, was closing after going bankrupt in another hit to B.C.’s forest industry workers.
The mill was open for 30 years, on a 14-acre site on Grafton Avenue. The company provided western red cedar and yellow cedar products to the world lumber market.
For Parksville’s LaChapelle, the closure came out of the blue. She said she’s still processing the blow and isn’t sure what will come next for her.
“It was devastating — it still is,” said LaChapelle about the layoffs. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do.”
LaChapelle said she’s hearing a similar sentiment from her co-workers who were laid off. She said some are upset there’s no program for older laid-off sawmill workers like there is in the Interior.
The Ministry of Forests Retirement Bridging program offers a financial transition to retirement for forestry workers 55 years or older. For LaChapelle, who is 49, it wouldn’t be applicable, but she said there remains a chunk of workers who could benefit.
LaChapelle said she’s seen the industry change over the years — from log shortages to layoffs, but that she still didn’t expect a change as large as this one to come so soon.
“We’ve had more layoffs for longer periods of time than when I first started for sure,” she said. “I didn’t see this coming at all.”