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Terrace’s Skeena Sawmills workers eligible for provincial early retirement relief

Program offers up to $75,000 for workers 55 and older impacted by economic downturns
Terrace’s Skeena Bioenergy pellet plant stands silent, its doors barricaded with cement blocks, a stark symbol of Skeena Sawmills’ unfolding bankruptcy ordeal. (Staff photo)

Qualifying workers now out of a job because of the receivership of Skeena Sawmills and its sister Skeena Bioenergy pellet plant have one option to provide financial relief.

That’s to take advantage of a provincial early retirement program meant to tide people over until regular pension payments begin.

The program was originally crafted to assist eligible workers if their employers closed in areas where the province wanted to protect old-growth forests from being logged.

But it has now expanded the program to include any eligible workers affected by unemployment because of closures due to economic or other reasons.

It applies to workers employed by contractors as well as those who were employed at wood processing facilities.

In order to qualify a person has to be at least 55 years old and has had to have been employed for at least two years at a facility or by a contractor.

Information from the province indicates a person can be eligible for up to $75,000 depending upon length of employment and their age.

In the Northwest, the early retirement program was put to use by workers at Canfor’s sawmill in Houston which went through a series of openings and closings for the past three years until it was closed for good this past spring.

Older eligible workers there voluntarily retired to avoid layoffs of younger workers.

Canfor announced last week it was replacing its old Houston sawmill with a new one costing approximately $200 million.

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