Sawmill employees represented by the United Steelworkers have been staging rotating job action since November. (File photo)

Southern Interior forestry union, mill owners return to bargaining table

The union representing forestry workers to meet at request of labour relations association

  • Jan. 9, 2019 11:30 a.m.

Kamloops This Week

Following rotating strikes at five southern Interior sawmills late last year, the union representing area forestry workers is headed back to the bargaining table.

The United Steelworkers and Interior Forest Labour Relations Association have agreed to three days of bargaining in Kelowna, from Jan. 15 to Jan. 17.

“We’re going back to the table at their [the IFLRA’s] request,” USW 1-417 president Marty Gibbons said.

“We’re still seeking a fair agreement. That doesn’t mean everything we wish and dream for, but any discussions are good discussions,” he said.

The two sides haven’t engaged in talks since Nov. 16 when USW dismissed mediator Dave Schaub and initiated rotating strikes at five operations into December.

According to the IFLRA, 12 days of negotiations had taken place at that point, dating back to Sept. 6.

Union members at Locals 1-405 (Cranbrook), 1-423 (Kelowna) and 1-417 (Kamloops) have been without a new contract for the past six months.

They, including Canoe Forest Products near Salmon Arm, voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in October.

Issues raised by the union include being locked into a long-term contract with small wage increases.

“We want to get an agreement; our goal is a fair contract that reflects the profits forestry companies in B.C. are making,” Gibbons says. “We’re not asking for all of them, or even most of them, but we would like a contract that reflects the profits – that’s fair.”

Related: Picket line up at Tolko plant near Lumby

Negotiations between the two sides has the union proposing a three per cent per year wage increase over four years, compared to the IFLRA’s offer of two per cent per year over five years, according to a USW bargaining update.

“They they want a super long term contract with meagre increases in what is being seen as the golden age for profits in the forestry industry,” he says, calling profits made last year by public companies Canfor, West Fraser and Interfor “astronomical.”

Tolko, as a private company, is not required to post their profits.

USW Local 1-417 represents forestry workers at mills in Kamloops, Clearwater, Salmon Arm, Merritt and Clinton.

IFLRA president Jeff Roos responded by email.

“We appreciate that the USW has accepted the opportunity to resume discussions with the IFLRA,” he said.

“In the midst of challenging times in the B.C. forest industry, we believe that we can best conclude an agreement, by sitting down and talking through the issues.”

The IFLRA represents 10 companies, with a total of 2,800 employees across southern B.C.

The entire provincial bargaining committee – representing forestry workers without new contracts in both northern and southern B.C. – will be at the meetings in Kelowna, Gibbons said.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Break in at Lake Country pot shop

Cash register and products stolen from Starbuds

Crunch time for West Kelowna Warriors prospects

In the second Warriors pre-season game Friday, final roster spots will be fought for

Suspicious fire rips through abandoned Kelowna home

A fire was reported on Francescutti Court just after 1 a.m. Friday morning

Rain in the forecast for much of the Southern Interior

Rain for much of the day in most areas clearing in the evening

Kelowna mom misses two sons killed by opioids

‘I’m always very aware of 11 o’clock’

Madchild brings demons of drug abuse to Okanagan

Swollen Members rapper takes Status stage

Cause of North Okanagan house fire still under investigation

Mom rescued sleeping baby from Thursday’s blaze

Speculation tax forces sale of Greater Victoria’s iconic ‘Tulip House’

Bob and Jan Fleming selling their retirement home famous for its thousands of tulips

LETTER: Repair work overdue at lakeside path

Condition of walkway is a disgrace for Summerland

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Access to Okanagan Rail Trail to be limited by erosion work

The work will be done throughout September but won’t begin before the Labour Day weekend

Wildfire sparks beside Highway 3 west of Keremeos

A wildfire on the side of Highway 3 just west of Keremeos… Continue reading

Summerland relaunches net metering program

Event open house will be held Aug. 27 from 3 to 6 p.m in Arena Banquet Room

Most Read