New measures to support workers, employers put in place
Alberta is deferring timber dues to help forest companies amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The deferral of dues will support companies that have self-isolating staff or constraints that require working from home. It also helps rural economies by providing stable employment in the forest industry.
“Alberta’s forest sector is our third-largest resource industry, behind energy and agriculture. Ensuring the economic viability for our responsible forest companies will help Alberta families and contribute to our economic recovery,” said Devin Dreeshen, minister of agriculture and forestry.
There are 18,700 workers employed in the forest sector, which also supports 25,000 additional indirect jobs and 90 communities. However, the forest industry has been experiencing low markets for lumber, oriented strand board and pulp due to the pandemic, according to the government.
In 2018, the forest sector directly supported 946 small businesses and 58 medium – and large – sized businesses.
Alberta forest product manufacturing contributed almost $2.2 billion to the provincial GDP in that year after exporting high-quality forest products around the world, including to the United States ($2.76 billion), China ($715 million), Japan ($294 million) and South Korea ($157 million).
Alberta has also implemented some policy changes to support workers and employers in this time of crisis.
The government is increasing the maximum time for a temporary layoff from 60 days to 120 days to ensure temporarily laid-off employees stay attached to a job longer. This change is retroactive for any temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 that occurred on or after March 17.
The province is also removing the 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes, and the two weeks’ notice for changes to work schedules for those under an averaging agreement, and removing the requirement to provide the group termination notice to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are being terminated.
Alberta is also streamlining the process for approvals related to modifying employment standards so employers and workers can respond quicker to changing conditions at the workplace due to the public health emergency.
The changes take effect immediately and will be in place as long as the government determines it is needed and the public health emergency order remains, said the government.