The union bargaining committee and representatives of CONIFER, the organization representing employers, went through five days of mediation in Prince George last week, but to no avail. “Mediator Dave Schaub was called upon to kick start what can only be characterized as a slow start to bargaining, with meager progress,” reads a statement issued by the Steelworkers. “… As an added insult, they remain steadfast in their desire for concessions such as; Tuesday-Saturday clean-up shifts at straight time, statutory holidays paid at straight time rather than time off on alternate shifts, an extended probationary period and an increase in employees’ costs for Health and Welfare benefits. It appears as though CONIFER is not serious about setting the pattern for the forest industry given the fact they have offered a package that falls well short of other recent settlements in the forest industry and far inferior to the 2013-2018 agreement.”
Picket lines could go up as early as Saturday morning. In August millworkers in the north voted 92.6 per cent in favour of strike action.
The USW-CONIFER 2013-2018 collective agreement covers the following northern interior sawmill operations: Babine Forest Products Ltd.; Canfor— Fort St. John, Houston, Isle Pierre and PG Sawmill; Conifex—Fort St. James and Mackenzie; Dunkley Lumber Ltd.; Lakeland Mills; Tolko— Lakeview, Quest Wood, Soda Creek; and West Fraser—Williams Lake Planer.
The contract expired June 30.