Only eight of Galloway Lumber Mill's 44 employees remain on the job since its new owner, Brian Fehr stepped in on April 1st, 2019.
When Fehr took over the company's ownership, 25 of the mill's 44 employees were working, as 19 were laid off already.
The new owner plans to retool the mill from a sawmill with a planer mill on site into a fabricating shop, sawmill timber mill and cross-laminated timber plant over the next few years.
The United Steelworkers Local 1-405 President Doug Singer feels this leaves employees in a difficult position, however, as significant layoffs have taken place to accommodate the conversion.
The USW Local 1-405 represents the 44 employees of Galloway Lumber and has been working with the employer to get employees back to work as quickly as possible.
Singer said in the interim, however, employees are uncertain what to do about employment.
"They know there are plans to do something over the next year or two years, but until that actually happens they don't really know what the future holds which is not a great thing for an employee to be sitting at home wondering exactly when and how things are going to work out," said Singer.
The union is, however, looking into how to move forward with the company to get its workers back on the job.
They have signed agreements protecting the seniority of its workers and how work is going to be done and by which employee.
For the employees who are laid off, Singer said the USW is doing what it can to assist them.
"There are opportunities at some local mills to get some work, especially over the summer because a lot of the mills do need extra people to allow others to take vacation time," explained Singer. "Having these employees that are able to potentially be employed at some of the local mills, even as far north as Golden at LP Golden, there is some opportunity, it just depends on whether people want it or if that opportunity makes sense for them or not under the circumstances."
Despite potentially facing up to two years of being laid off, Singer offered some hope to the future of the mill and the community of Jaffary.
"We are doing everything we can to get our members back to work in the shortest period of time possible. We know it's frustrating for our members and it's going to take some time," he told Summit 107. "We are looking down the road and this could be a very successful project and a good thing for our members, their families and the community surrounding Jaffary as a whole."
The Union hopes to move forward with the new owner as planned and get employees back to work as quickly as possible.
Audio: Doug Singer USW Local 1-405 President: