The union representing striking Western Forest Products (WFP) employees says it is disappointed that neither negotiations nor mediation seem to be bearing fruit in its labour dispute with the company, but WFP itself says it’s the union that has walked away from the talks.
In a press release issued on Monday, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1-1937, which represents the workers, says mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers met with both sides on Sept. 13.
USW, the release says, “tabled a revised set of proposals” for WFP to consider, including a revised wage proposal, but “mediators then spent four of the six hours in mediation meeting with WFP, returning on two occasions to advise that WFP’s positions were relatively unchanged with no anticipated movement.”
Rick Nelson, 1st vice-president of Local 1-1937, says he wasn’t surprised the talks haven’t gone well, as it’s his view that “WFP has an agenda from the beginning to break the union and blacken the eye of the BC Government over new forest policies it doesn’t like,” including, “new regulations on economic logging zones and waste standards, which were designed to reduce log exports and create more jobs,” according to the release.
“We know it is disapponting for our 2,500 members currently on strike, as well as for forest-dependent communities to hear that mediation has failed to this point,” the release says, “but it takes two parties to engage in the process and USW Local 1-1937 cannot and will not bagain with ourselves. We believe it has been WFP’s plan to raise the hopes of mediation in our members, knowing all along that they wouldn’t move and mediation would fail, in order to try and undermine USW members resolve.”
Meanwhile, WFP says although the talks on Sept. 13 did not produce results, the mediation was scheduled to continue the following day, but “the mediators informed the company that USW had left and would not be returning for talks, scheduled for the full day on Sept. 14,” according to a WFP release.
“We are disappointed that talks have broken off and firmly believe that resuming discussions with the assistance of an independent-mediator is the best way for both parties to resolve our differences,” says Don Demens, President and Chief Executive Officer of WFP in the release. “It is surprising that the USW continues to refuse to give the mediation process the opportunity to work, given what is at stake for our employees, customers and the communities in which we operate.”
A few facts about the strike:
n The workers have been on strike since Canada Day, after 98.8 per cent of it membes voted in favour of strike action when the two sides couldn’t negotiate an agreement to replace the five-year one that expired mid-June.
n The USW have said its members started the job action because the company has not seriously addressed union proposals and continues to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table as both sides try to negotiate a new collective agreement.
n WFP confirmed that approximately 1,500 of the company’s hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C. went on strike.
n The strike affects all of the company’s United Steelworkers certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in B.C.
n The BC Federation of Labour announced a “hot edict” July 11 on WFP in a show of solidarity with striking forest workers.
n On Aug. 20, WFP sent out an email to employees stating that the company is not obligated to provide benefits when a collective agreement is not in place. During the last strike on Vancouver Island in 2007, WFP covered employees’ benefits while they were on the picket line, and employees paid the company back.