Forestry Industry in British Columbia

Workers on Strike to Defend Their Rights

Picket at Duke Point in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, July 3, 2019. (USW Local 1-1937)

Forestry workers on the BC coast and Vancouver Island took strike action on July 1 against Western Forest Products and its subcontractors. About 3,000 workers are involved, approximately half of them directly employed by Western Forest Products and half by subcontractors. In strike votes conducted in June, union members of USW Local 1-1937 voted 98.8 per cent in favour of strike action to back up their demands for improved wages and working conditions and in rejection of the employers' attempt to impose concessions.

In the June 28 bargaining update, USW Local 1-1937 writes, "This action was not taken lightly and was strategically made in order to apply maximum pressure on WFP, in order to send the strongest possible message, in the clearest possible terms, that WFP must seriously address the membership's proposals, remove all of their concessions entirely, as well as rescind all of the cancellation letters regarding local agreements and practices."

Brian Butler, the President of Local 1-1937, in speaking to a Vancouver Island television station said, "They have massive concessions where they're attacking our pensions. [...] They're attacking our benefit plans, they are attacking our job security and they've wiped out decades worth of local agreements that our members have negotiated over the years, and none of that will stand."

Forestry workers are facing the same brutality as workers in other sectors in which companies, instead of negotiating to renew collective agreements on the basis of established norms and standards, are trampling on already negotiated terms and declaring them no longer in force, while at the same time demanding workers make concessions and give up what has been negotiated in the past.

The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) in a press release on July 10, issued, "a 'hot edict' today on Western Forest Products (WFP) in a show of solidarity with striking forest workers. The move, welcomed by the United Steelworkers (USW), means that members of the BCFED's affiliated unions have been asked to no longer handle any WFP coastal lumber, log and wood products."

Coastal forestry workers are defending their rights and their dignity as those who transform into use-value the natural resources of the forest through their work. Their demand that Western Forest Products negotiate and drop all their demands for concessions is just and deserves everyone's support.

This article was published in

Number 25 - July 18, 2019

Article Link:
Forestry Industry in British Columbia: Workers on Strike to Defend Their Rights


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