CORRECTION: United Steelworkers Local 1-2017 President Brian O’Rourke has clarified yesterday’s announcement, saying that a strike vote is only being held by workers at 13 mills owned by members of the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations, or Conifer. A press release issued by the union had quoted USW Wood Council Chair Bob Matters as saying that the union was “bargaining for 23 different worksites…” O’Rourke said however that only 13 worksites are currently in talks, and suggested that the press release may have contained a typo.
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Officials with the United Steelworkers Wood Council say that members of USW Local 1-2017, which represents workers at the Canfor sawmill in Fort St. John, will be conducting a strike vote after talks broke down with their employer.
In a release, the USW says that the Wood Council recently held a fifth round of negotiations with the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations, or Conifer, which is a non-profit society that was formed for the purpose of coordinating collective bargaining activities for member organizations.
Among the members of Conifer are Canfor’s sawmills in Fort St. John and Prince George, Canfor Energy North’s Fort St. John and Chetwynd operations, West Fraser’s Williams Lake division, and the Conifex mill in Mackenzie, in addition to over a dozen other mills across Northern B.C.
However, the USW says that talks with Conifer broke down because of what it claims was the employer being unwilling to listen to the concerns of union members.
“We are looking for improvements to our working conditions,” said USW Wood Council Chair Bob Matters. “The employer is unwilling to discuss the most basic proposals. Our workers are demanding changes and we will fight for them. We are bargaining for 23 different worksites and it’s time to send them a message.”
The union said in their release that has proposed changes to the collective agreement that includes leave for members struggling with domestic violence, union representation and pension funding improvement.
“Our goal is to get a fair contract for our members,” said USW Local 1-2017 President Brian O’Rourke. “The employers are having one of the best economic years in decades and workers should share in this prosperity.”
Matters said that over 1,500 workers will be participating in a vote for the union to get a strike mandate from each worksite covered by Conifer, which includes the two locations in the Peace Region.
He added that the vote needs to be conducted in the next two weeks.