Driving to work Wednesday, I got stuck behind a tractor trailer on its way to the Oakhill sawmill. The fresh cut trees smelled good in the damp morning air. They smelled like history.
It won’t be long before scenes like this will be rare, especially on North Street in Bridgewater, which has been rather notorious for busy truck traffic going to and from Oakhill (enough so they are/were planning to widen North Street).
For the next few weeks, the sawmill outside of Bridgewater is cleaning up wood from its company contractors. Then it’s all done.
Private contractors like my father, though, were cut off last Friday. All he can do is hope to sell some of the hardwood to small mills scattered around the county. If they manage to stay open.
Since I first wrote about the mill closures a week ago Friday, everyone has been talking about how they will be affected. And there’s been a lot of talk. If we had water coolers, they would be surrounded.
My Dad has worked for the company for many years. Sometimes directly for them. Sometimes as a private contractor. (Private contractors are self-employed, then sell their wood to the company. They absorb the cost of cutting the wood with their own machine and are paid only once the wood is trucked to the mill.)
There will still be some hardwood to cut, but it’s expected the market in the region will be flooded and prices will go down. It’s unlikely small contractors will be able to stay afloat this way. Most relied on selling to Bowater.
And of course, so many other families will be affected. Or are wondering how they will be affected.
Mill workers, contractors, truckers, company supervisors, those who provide services to the forestry industry. Even just those who cut a few logs on their land and send them to the mill, like my uncle. It could total 2,000 lost jobs. And not everyone will qualify for EI.
Needless to say, the national media didn’t even mention the loss of these thousands of jobs, let alone offer suggestions about how to sustain rural communities.
Maybe we can open another call centre.
* I just couldn’t think of a better title. How do you summarize a week of economic uncertainty?