A total of 1,629 United Steelworkers Local 1-207 members voted over the past two weeks with 1,509 of them giving the union executive a strike mandate.
Talks between the Steelworkers and CONIFER, a society formed by forest companies to handle collective bargaining, broke down in late July. Steelworkers tabled their demands with CONIFER on May 22 and with West Fraser on May 23. The union subsequently choose to first negotiate with CONIFER. The contract expired June 30.
“This represents a 93 per cent overall strike mandate for our bargaining committee,” said Brian O’Rourke, Local 1-2017 president. “Committee members will be meeting within the next week. We will also be discussing dates with the employer association to return to the bargaining table for meaningful negotiations.”
The vote was take at the Hampton Group at Burns Lake (Babine Forest Products); two Conifex Mills, one at Fort St. James and one at Mackenzie; Lakeland Mills in Prince George; Dunkley Lumber; West Fraser’s planer mill in Williams Lake; four Canfor operations … Houston, Isle Pierre, PG Sawmill, and Fort St. John; and Tolko … Lakeview and Soda Creek in Williams Lake, and Questwood in Quesnel.
‘The membership has given a clear message,” said O’Rourke. “They want a fair negotiated agreement and they have given the bargaining committee the mandate to achieve this.”
During the last negotiations, Canfor negotiated outside of the CONIFER group and the Steelworkers negotiated with it first, setting the bar for other negotiations. This time, however, most of the Canfor operations are negotiating under the CONIFER umbrella. Canfor’s operations in Chetwynd, Polar at Bear Lake, and Plateau at Vanderhoof will be negotiated separately.
West Fraser Mills’ operations will also be negotiated plant-by-plant.
Lumber prices have been extremely high this year. According to the Madison Report, western spruce/pine/fir two-by-fours are selling at (U.S.) $577/1,000 board feet at two-by-sixes at $536.
CONIFER executive director Michael Bryce could not be reached for comment.