WFP negotiations break down with striking forestry workers

WFP negotiations break down with striking forestry workers

Talks have broken down between the union representing forestry workers and Western Forest Products, with no future mediation dates scheduled.

Western Forest Products Inc. said Monday that negotiations with the United Steelworkers union representing workers in a long-running coastal B.C. strike ended without resolution on the weekend.

The company says no active negotiations are occurring and no future mediation dates have been scheduled after 14 hours of bargaining occurred on Saturday and Sunday supervised by two independent mediators.

United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 released an update from the coast bargaining committee on Monday afternoon, saying it was WFP that decided it would not respond to the union’s latest offer on Sunday.

“It is unfortunate, but not surprising that WFP walked away from the bargaining table again. In today’s letter, they have attempted to undermine our member’s solidarity, rather than negotiate in good faith in mediation, in order to reach an agreement,” the letter signed by USW Local 1-1937 President Brian Butler said.

“The result is that more time has been wasted in game playing, rather than getting on with the serious issue of collective bargaining.”

Butler wrote the unions’ leadership group has passed a unanimous motion directing the bargaining committee to reject WFP’s proposal in its entirety.

Don Demens, president and CEO of WFP, issued the following statement on Monday:

“This weekend, Western tabled a fair proposal with the goal of ending the strike and bringing people back to work. After approximately 14 hours of bargaining occurring over Saturday and Sunday morning, we were informed by independent mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers that talks were over.

We offered a five-year agreement, which included a $2,000 signing bonus and wage increases of 2 per cent per year for the first four years and 2.5 per cent in the fifth year. After previously dropping pension plan alternatives opposed by the Union, we also dropped all remaining proposals that the Union opposed, including modernizing agreements dating back to 1986 which would support future employment. Our offer is aligned with recent forest industry collective bargaining settlements and provides certainty for employees, customers, contractors, and communities.

Our goal is to get people back to work, end the strike and enable us to supply products to our customers. To achieve this goal, we asked the Local Union Bargaining Committee (“Committee”) to allow employees to return to work while they ask membership to vote on our proposal. To date, the Committee has rejected this proposal as well as our request to go to binding arbitration.

The Committee continues to demand a shorter-term agreement, with wage increases which are nearly 40 per cent higher than recent industry agreements and changes that would eliminate current shift flexibility required to operate the business. Western carefully considered all of the Committee’s proposals, including demonstrating openness to a four-year term. However, in an industry already challenged to compete in global markets, the Committee’s proposals in their entirety are not sustainable; challenging future capital investment, decreasing operational certainty and restricting our ability to operate efficiently. While Western is doing what it can to end the strike, we must also protect the future of our business so we can continue to employ thousands of people in British Columbia.

Western remains willing to honour our proposal, go to binding arbitration, or explore other opportunities to get our employees back to work and end the strike. We are urging the Committee to reconsider its decision and allow employees to vote on this offer so we can return people to work as soon as possible.”

However, the union says this proposal is a “desperate attempt and has failed to undermine the solidarity of members.” The full update from USW has been posted on the union’s Facebook page and website.

The strike which began July 1 affects about 3,000 coastal forest workers employed in Western Forest Products’ sawmills and timberlands operations.

The union also posted a picture from Powell River members burning Demens’ letter.

Here’s what the Powell River members think of Don Demens letter. They want all the facts, from the bargaining committee….

Posted by USW 1-1937 on Monday, November 18, 2019

The strike which began July 1 affects about 3,000 coastal forest workers employed in Western Forest Products’ sawmills and timberlands operations.

The company’s shares lost five cents or 3.9 per cent at $1.22 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

With files from The Canadian Press


Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!