FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The United Steelworkers Local 1-2017, which represents workers at the Canfor lumber mill in Fort St. John, issued 72-hour strike notice on Wednesday morning.
Local 1-2017 President Brian O’Rourke said that the notice affects 13 sawmills affiliated with the Council of Northern Interior Forest Industry Relations, or CONIFER.
O’Rourke said that the union will be able to legally go on strike at 8:00 a.m. Saturday.
In mid-August, 1,509 of the over 1,600 workers at the CONIFER operations voted in favour of strike action, which works out to 93 percent of those who cast ballots.
He said that the union negotiators and negotiators with CONIFER, which acts as a bargaining agent for the thirteen sawmills, were in mediated negotiations through the Labour Relations Board for five full days last week, before the union asked the mediator to book out last Friday evening.
O’Rourke said that CONIFER continues to demand concessions from the union on a new collective agreement, including longer probationary periods, lower starting wages, and extra costs for health and welfare benefits.
“They’ve got a number of things on the table,” said O’Rourke. “We believe, given where were are in the industry, I don’t think they’ve ever made higher profits.”
He said that at this point, the union does not intend to go on strike, and issued the 72-hour strike notice to keep as many options available as possible.
“With luck, we’ll get back to the table and get a fair agreement and settlement for the membership.”