Softwood lumber is pictured at Tolko Industries in Heffley Creek, B.C., April, 1, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

No strike action yet for Northern B.C. forestry workers

Union heads into talks in southern Interior, with hopes they could inform northern agreement

The strike notice issued by United Steelworkers local 1-2017 on Oct. 3 has so far not led to strike action for more than 1,500 forestry workers affected in Northern B.C.

The union issued the 72-hour strike notice on Wednesday last week, and have been legally able to take action since Saturday Oct. 6 at 8 a.m.

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.

READ MORE: Steelworkers union issues strike notice affecting 1,500 mill workers in northern B.C.

Union president Brian O’Rourke will be attending negotiation meetings between the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA) and Locals 1-417, 1-423 and 1-403, all of which represent forestry workers in B.C.’s Interior. The negotiations are taking place in Kelowna Oct. 10-12. The purpose is to “attempt to conclude a collective agreement and set a pattern for all outstanding B.C. Interior negotiations,” said the latest online update from USW 1-2017.

Paul French, the first vice president of USW Local 1-2017, said they are hopeful talks in the south can end up in positive news for the north.

“We pattern bargain. If the nuts and bolts are put together in the south, it should result in meaningful talks in the north, and vice versa – if we had had meaningful talks, it would have made their talks a lot easier. They are different players in the south but quite a few are the same, like Tolko is represented in the south as well as the north,” he explained.

The USW 1-2017 update online said that if the IFLRA tables a similar package to CONIFER in the north, the southern Interior locals will conduct a strike vote just as Local 1-2017 did in the north in August 2018.

French said they hope to avoid a strike, but currently USW Local 1-2017 has no negotiation dates planned with CONIFER.

“Simply put, right now the notice has been served. We are hoping calmer heads prevail and that we can get back to the bargaining table and avoid strike action. To this date members are still working.

“We are going to give the south a try. As of right now we are in a legal position to strike, but we have not called a strike.”

Both the southern Interior and Northern B.C. agreements expired June 30, 2018.

The IFLRA is the bargaining agent for the following operations:

Local 1-417: Canfor Vavenby, West Fraser Chasm, Tolko Heffley Creek, Aspen Planer sites 1 & 2 and Canoe Forest Products.

Local 1-423: Tolko’s Armstrong, White Valley, Kelowna and Lumby Roads Crew, Lumby Forest Techs, Interfor Grand Forks and Weyerhaeuser Princeton.

Local 1-405: Canfor’s Radium, Elko and Woodlands, Interfor Castlegar, Galloway Lumber, LP Golden and Stella Jones.



editor@quesnelobserver.com

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