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January 16, 2012 | last updated January 16, 2012 11:04 am

Labor commissioner waives fines for logging cos.

Maine's labor commissioner has waived thousands in fines assessed to two logging companies for failing to provide documentation about their hiring of Canadian workers. Robert Winglass said he had a change of heart over the fines after meeting with representatives from the companies.

Last summer, Rhode Island-based Pepin Lumber and Les Transports Regi Inc. of Quebec were fined $10,000 and $15,000, respectively, for not meeting additional restrictions passed in 2010 related to the use of Canadian workers, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported. Specficially, the companies failed to inform the Department of Labor within three days of hiring Canadian workers and provide necessary documentation. After meeting with company officials, however, Winglass waived the fines, saying they were too high. He also cited a concern over the shortage of contractors able to harvest wood for mills.

Winglass' move, however, is being met with criticism by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, an outspoken proponent of tougher rules for logging companies that he says violate state and federal labor laws by hiring cheaper Canadian labor instead of Maine workers. Jackson was an intervener in the case against the two companies, and he told MPBN he questions Winglass' reasons for waiving the fines. He is planning to file an appeal with the state board of arbitration.

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