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

Crews continuing to clear rock north of Summerland

Site has had no movement for the past eight days

Kelowna developer makes an effort to help students left homeless after flood

U-Two developer is making an effort to help university students who were left in a lurch

Okanagan junior boys teams heading to basketball provincials.

The provincials invite 32 of the top junior teams in the province

Two accidents on Highway 97 near Vernon College

Emergency personnel have been called to two separate incidents on Highway 97 near Okanagan College

Music Rundown: Who you should be watching play live this week

Fill your calendar this week with these great shows

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

No gas in Okanagan town as lone station closed for renovations

Falkland’s Petro Canada will remain closed for renovations until March 1

Shuswap facility adds 60 long-term care beds

Mount Ida Mews hosts grand opening of second phase in Salmon Arm

UPDATE: One dead after crash on Highway 97A near Armstrong

Police have confirmed that one person is dead following an accident on Highway 97A Friday

Most Read