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
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
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
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no longer in force, while at the same time demanding workers make
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
Forestry Industry in British Columbia: Workers on Strike to Defend Their Rights