Producers and Steelworkers come to terms

Five year labour pact agreed to after lengthy negotiations

A timely resolution has come to labour negotiations carried out between Southern BC wood products producers and the United Steelworkers – representatives of workers including more than 200 in the West Kootenays.

“United Steelworkers (USW) members employed by Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA) member companies in the B.C. southern interior have ratified a five-year collective agreement,” states a Dec. 19 press release from Canada News Wire. “Members of USW Locals 1-405 Cranbrook, 1-417 Kamloops and 1-423 Kelowna have voted by a 66-per-cent majority in favour of a tentative agreement reached Nov. 29.”

The press release goes on relate that the pact, “…provides significant pay enhancements for tradesmen who will enjoy a 23-per-cent wage increase over the term of the agreement.”

Various other stipulations, including terms for apprenticeships, living out allowances and mileage payments have added up to  a document the Cranbrook local (which encompasses the West Kootenay region) can feel good about.

“It’s a great deal for our membership,” Local #405 First Vice President Doug Wood told the Castlegar News on Dec. 19.

“It’s a five year contract. We’ve got improvements for the trades end of it, as well as benefits for all the regular members.

“We got a big chunk of money put into the pensions by the companies as well.”

The compromise was the result of a good deal of bargaining, as Wood related.

“It took a long time to get to where we wanted to be. We started last year, we met in Kamloops.”

The development will undoubtedly mean a happier holiday season for USW members, including those in the West Kootenays.

The Local #405 First Vice President said there are about 160 members employed at Interfor’s Castlegar operation along with about another 60 at the Atco mill in Fruitvale.

“For us they’re important operations,” Wood said of the two sites.

“They’re long-term members… we’re very happy for them.”

Comment from the employers’ side was not available as of press deadline.