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

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan receives $20,000 grant

The organization announced the grant from Revera on Friday

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

City of Kelowna urges people to donate to non-profits instead of directly to homeless

The new homeless camp on Recreation Avenue isn’t equipped to handle donations

UBCO daycare services slated for major improvements

More families will have access to high-quality child care services at UBCO

CBC Radio tops the ranking again in Kelowna

CBC had largest market share for third year in a row say rating company Numeris

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Doors open to Vernon’s first refill store

Vernon’s Refill Store may be answer to plastics problem

Okanagan RCMP not toying around when it comes to impaired drivers

Saturday, Dec. 7 is National Impaired Driving Enforcement Day

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

Crown delves into Sagmoen’s history with North Okanagan sex workers

Decision on validity of police search warrant will be made on Monday, Dec. 9

Okanagan Similkameen could have a sister city in the south of France

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen considering agreement with wine region in southern France

Summerland businesses participate in Sip N’ Shop

Downtown event on Dec. 14 will feature local beverages

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Most Read