Militant Rally in Campbell River Supports Demands of Striking Coastal Forestry Workers
Steelworkers on strike against Western Forest Products (WFP), members of United Steelworkers local 1-1937, rallied outside the offices of the company in Campbell River on September 26. The rally was called to reaffirm the determination of the workers to hold strong in their fight against concessions demanded by the company. The steelworkers were joined by workers from other unions including the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers, Hospital Employees’ Union, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, the BC Teachers’ Federation and others, including retired steelworkers.
Following a traditional greeting from two First Nations elders, the rally was addressed by USW Local 1-1937 president Brian Butler who said that Western Forest Products was “dead wrong” in their calculation that the workers were weak and that the union was weak when they came to the bargaining table with 24 concessions. He said that in spite of its slogan of “Defining Higher Standards” WFP was intent on defining lower standards for companies in BC and that since 2014 the company has embarked on an anti-union course. He cited, as examples, the drug and alcohol policy that is being used to target workers for termination and the implementation of alternate shifts which puts workers in danger with long hours and cause serious disruption in family life. He said that it is the workers who create Western Forest Products’ wealth but the reward for their hard work is increasing attacks on the workers and their union. Recently WFP closed a planer mill at the same time as it purchased mills in the U.S. where BC logs are being shipped. In response to all the efforts of the company to impose its dictate and wipe out over 40 years of gains workers have made, Butler re-stated that accepting concessions is out of the question.
Fraser Valley Steelworkers’ local 2009 President Al Bieksa, USW Wood Council Chairperson Jeff Bromley, BC Federation of Labour President Laird Cronk, USW District 3 Director Steve Hunt, North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney and Ben Olsson, Secretary of the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council spoke in support of the Steelworkers’ stand. Bieksa denounced the forestry monopolies that are refusing to invest in the industry because they disagree with any new government policy that interferes with their dictate. All the speakers expressed their support for the stand of the coastal forestry workers and the significance to all the workers of BC of their fight against all attempts to smash their organization and take away hard won working conditions. Further picket line support actions will be taking place at locations throughout Vancouver Island.
(Photos: M. Duhra, B Harlow)