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

Dancing with Shuswap Stars attracts Rust Valley Restorers

TV show stars join quest to hone some fancy footwork

Open house to reveal proposed changes to Balmoral intersection on Trans-Canada Highway

The South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce has already provided input to the ministry

Salmon Arm residents learn how to protect properties from wildfire

Removing debris from forest floor can help stop fires from spreading

Thunderstorm leaves small fire near Adams Lake in its wake

Wildfire crews in the Kamloops Fire Centre are also fighting a small blaze near Kamloops

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Heat, sun and a chance of thunderstorms for Father’s Day

Morning pancake breakfasts and fishing derbies across the region will see sun, showers may follow.

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

A Kelowna medical research company needs adults with autism spectrum disorder for a study

Three-hundred-fifty patients worldwide will participate in the study

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

RAMA and Migrants Rights Network supporters protest for enhanced labour rights amongst migrant workers

‘I benefit from people who come and do the work that we can’t find other Canadians to do’

Michael McDonald to play in the Okanagan

The five-time Grammy Award winner has sold out Mission Hill Family Estate Winery

Police probe report of shooting as Raptors rally continues

There were reports of a woman being injured at the event that celebrates the team’s NBA title win

Top classic car show cruises back into the South Okanagan

Peach City Beach Cruise runs June 21 to 23 in Penticton

North Okanagan adds wildfire protection

“The important message we would like to get out is that there are actions that people can take to make their homes less susceptible to the threat of wildfires”

Dangerous driving in Keremeos and Vernon nets jail time

Gary Patrick Richard will serve 73 days in jail for dangerous driving and other offences

Most Read