USW forestry workers headed for mediation

738 workers in East Kootenay, a further 175 in West Kootenay

At the end of October, United Steelworker members in the southern interior, working in the forestry industry, returned a 98 per cent strike vote.

READ: USW IN B.C. Interior return strike vote

This week, the Steelworkers announced that talks will go to mediation through the B.C. Labour Relations Board following the inability to agree to a new collective agreement.

Mediator Dave Schaub has been appointed to mediate talks between the two parties. Those talks are scheduled for November 14, 15 and 16, 2018 in Kelowna.

The locals involved are USW Local 1-405 (Kootenays), USW 1-423 (Kelowna) and USW1-417 (Kamloops).

Jeff Bromley from the Steelworkers says that is 738 members in the East Kootenay.

“We have approximately 350 unionized employees with Canfor at Woodlands (Cranbrook and Skookumchuck Chipper; not the Pulp Mill), Elko Sawmill and Radium Sawmill.

“We also have 330 employees at Louisiana Pacific’s Lumber Plant in Golden. Along with 40 members at Galloway Sawmill and 18 members at Stella Jones Pole Plant, also at Galloway.

“In the West Kootenay we have 140 members in Castlegar at Interfor’s Sawmill there. And 35 members at Atco Wood Products in Fruitvale.”

“Despite reporting record profits in the 3rd quarter of 2018, Canfor has decided to engage in rotating layoffs at their BC operations, angering USW members in what looks more like a bargaining tactic than a reflection of markets,” says a Steelworkers press release, issued on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. “Forestry employers across the province have expressed concerns regarding high stumpage costs. Based on last quarter’s lower lumber prices, that rate is expected to decrease accordingly beginning January of 2019.

“For the members of USW Local 1-2017, Prince George, over 2000 members have been in a strike position since October 6 and participated in an overtime ban and rotating strikes. At the request of the USW Bargaining Committee, job action will be halted prior to and during the mediation process. The Bargaining Committee is grateful for the strong show of solidarity USW Local 1-2017 members have displayed during this process.”

More information will be made available as bargaining continues, the union says.

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