United Steelworkers Local 1-2017, which represents more than 1,500 forestry workers in B.C., has issued a 72-hour strike notice as of this morning (Oct. 3).
The strike notice is for operations affiliated with the Council of Northern Interior Forest Industry Relations (CONIFER), which includes operations in Houston, Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Prince George, Mackenzie, Fort St. John, Quesnel and Williams Lake. Operations affected include divisions of Canfor, Conifex, Dunkley Lumber, Lakeland Mills, Tolko Industries and West Fraser Mills, among others.
Union president Brian O’Rourke says they will be legally able to strike as of 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
“We have been negotiating for a period of time with CONIFER … last week we had the assistance of a mediator for five days and we didn’t make any headway.”
O’Rourke says that it is not the intention of the union to strike, however.
“We hope we can get the employer back to the table to continue with some meaningful bargaining.”
The collective agreement under negotiation includes wages and benefits, and is the union’s main agreement. The previous agreement expired June 30, 2018. The union has been in talks with CONIFER since then. Over 90 per cent of union members voted in support of a potential strike in August.
An Oct. 2 update posted on the USW 1-2017 website reads: “It appears as though CONIFER is not serious about setting the pattern for the forest industry given the fact they have offered a package that falls well short of other recent settlements in the forest industry and far inferior to the 2013-2018 agreement.”
The USW update says CONIFER remains steadfast on concessions including Tuesday-Saturday clean-up shifts at straight time, statutory holidays paid at straight time rather than time off on alternate shifts, an extended probationary period and an increase in employees’ costs for Health and Welfare benefits.
CONIFER could not be reached for an immediate comment.