THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck photo

Forestry workers’ union bans employee overtime as strike looms

First step in job action for Northern B.C. mills

More than 1,500 Forestry workers in Northern B.C. have been advised not to do overtime work by their union, in the first step of job action for United Steelworkers local 1-2017.

Union president Brian O’Rourke says there is an overtime ban for all Council of Northern Interior Forest Industry Relations (CONIFER) operations.

These operations affect workers 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.

On Oct. 3, 2018, USW 1-2017 issued a 72-hour strike notice, which meant they could legally strike from Saturday Oct. 6 at 8:30 a.m. So far the overtime ban is the only step towards job action.

O’Rourke is 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, this week in Kelowna.

He said the talks yesterday (Oct. 10) were brief, but they are back in talks today. O’Rourke is sitting in on negotiations with other unions as many of the operations affected by the IFLRA negotiations have operations in the north as well.

“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,” Union first vice president Paul French explained earlier this week.

The USW 1-2017 online update 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 Monday they hope to avoid a strike.

“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.”

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.

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



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