Forestry workers set to begin job action in Kootenays

Operations in Castlegar, Cranbrook, Galloway, Elko, Radium, Golden may see job action this week.

Forestry workers across the Kootenays could soon launch rotating strikes as talks between the United Steel Workers (USW) and the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA) have broken down.

Operations in the East and West Kootenay that may be affected by the action include the Interfor Castlegar Sawmill, the Canfor Elko Sawmill, the Canfor Radium Sawmill, Canfor Woodlands (Cranbrook Garage, Logging Trucks and Skookumchuck Chipper – but not the pulp mill), the Galloway Sawmill, Stella Jones Pole Plant in Galloway, and the Louisiana Pacific LVL/Plywood Plant in Golden.

Approximately 875 Kootenay workers may be affected.

According to a USW press release on Nov. 17, the union’s bargaining committee hired provincial mediator Dave Schaub late Friday night after talks broke down between the two parties.

The bargaining committee represents USW locals in Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, and Prince George, including 2,600 members in the south region and 2,000 members in the north.

USW workers in the south region have been in legal strike position since Nov. 3.

The collective agreement covering forestry workers in the Northern and Southern Interior expired June 30, 2018.

“After making some very significant moves to break the logjam between the two parties, the industry still insisted on keeping concessions on the table and dictating conditions on bargaining,” said Bob Matters, the USW’s lead negotiator, after three days of mediation in Kelowna failed to produce an agreement.

“Early next week, job action will begin at various operations in the south region, following the actions of the north region that has been in legal strike position since Oct. 6 and participating in an overtime ban as well as rotating strikes,” according to the union.

“Halted job action in the north region will restart with continuing job action while the south region’s operations will begin strategic job action early next week.”

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