BC Forestry Workers' Strike Approaches Six Months

Steelworkers Leadership Group Unanimously Rejects Proposal by Western Forest Products

Negotiators for United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 representing BC coastal forestry workers employed by Western Forest Products (WFP) and subcontractors met through a conference call with WFP and Contractor Chairpersons on November 18 to report on mediation sessions that were held on November 12, 16 and 17. The forestry workers have been on strike since July 1 on issues related to wages, benefits, unsafe working conditions and the abusive drug and alcohol policy.

The negotiating committee reported on what had taken place in mediation -- that there had been some progress but that ended with what they characterized as the company's "mediation delaying action," refusing to respond to the union's last offer at midday November 17. The bargaining committee reports, in Bargaining Bulletin #32 dated November 18, that "The Union's leadership group comprised of WFP and Contractor Chairpersons has passed a unanimous motion directing the Bargaining Committee to reject WFP's proposal in its entirety. The leadership group further stated that WFP should stop its delaying tactics and get back to the mediation table."

The committee reports that not only did the company fail to address the union's proposals regarding the workers' concerns, but the company's proposal actually eliminated "17 other tentative agreements the parties have reached in the mediation process, essentially wiping out much of the work already completed." Included in language that was already negotiated, but now eliminated by WFP, were agreements related to union security language improvements, health and safety language improvements, apprentice selection improvements, arbitrator and umpire appointments to speed up arbitration, member support during drug and alcohol investigations and testing, and other issues.

As has become their practice in attempting to undermine the union and the solidarity of the workers behind their just demands and their bargaining committee, the company issued a letter from CEO Don Demens directly to USW Local 1-1937 members on November 18 which falsely claims that WFP had removed concessionary demands, that the company has agreed to extend Long Term Disability coverage past age 60, as well as other false claims. 

The Bulletin concludes with "The USW Bargaining Committee remains available every day to continue mediation. We urge WFP's bargaining committee to contact the Mediators to schedule more dates. We are available starting tomorrow."

On November 25 the Bargaining Committee issued another update, reporting that there still has been no reply from WFP to the union's proposal of November 17, nor has the company contacted the mediators to re-start discussions. The mediators requested a conference call with the union spokesperson for November 26.

Labour Councils, union locals from both the private and the public sector, and communities affected by the strike, are standing firm in solidarity with the forestry workers' fight for wages and working conditions that are acceptable to them and take into consideration the dangers of their work and the needs of the workers, their families and communities.

(Photos: USW 1-1937)

This article was published in

Number 28 - November 27, 2019

Article Link:
BC Forestry Workers' Strike Approaches Six Months: Steelworkers Leadership Group Unanimously Rejects Proposal by Western Forest Products


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