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B.C. forestry program helps workers retire

B.C. forestry program helps workers retire
PROVINCE OF B.C.—Premier John Horgan tours the Interfor mill in Castlegar in 2019. The province's Bridging to Retirement program has helped 1,000 forestry workers retire early to date.

VICTORIA—B.C.’s Bridging to Retirement program has helped 1,000 forestry workers retire early.

The program was established in 2019 to assist displaced forestry workers in the Interior as the sector was in the midst of a major slump.

The program supports older workers in retiring early so they can stay in the communities they live in. The program has enabled employers to engage with their workers to support early retirement, while creating jobs for younger workers with the ultimate goal of keeping the province’s mills alive. The program became so in demand that it has already reached the maximum number of applications for the final year’s $4 million in funding.

Over the past year, 41 mills that were closed or curtailed have resumed operations, bringing almost 7,500 people back to work.

“I know first-hand, from my years working in a mill, just how difficult economic slumps can be on the people and communities that rely on forest industry jobs,” said Harry Bains, minister of labour, in a statement. “It has been gratifying to see the strong uptake in the Bridging to Retirement Program over the last 18 months.”

To date, the Bridging to Retirement Program has helped more than 1,000 workers retire early, providing about $46 million in benefits, and opening up more than 500 forestry jobs for workers who are in the early stages of their careers. In the Interior region alone, almost 840 workers have made the transition to retirement, with over $29 million paid out so far.

“This program has been very positive in several ways,” Bains said. “Older workers have the choice to retire earlier than they may have thought feasible. It gives them the option to stay within their own communities if they wish and support their local economies. It has opened opportunities for younger workers who may have been struggling to find good employment, and it has helped forestry companies adjust to current challenges. Without these kinds of support, many workplaces would have been forced to close – and then everyone loses.”

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