Eight-month forestry strike ends with vote to accept tentative agreement

Credit to Author: Glenda Luymes| Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2020 21:53:06 +0000

The longest strike in coastal forest history ended Saturday with a vote by union members to accept a tentative agreement between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Union.

The deal was ratified with 81.9 per cent support.

“Our membership has stood up and pushed back against a company that was bent on breaking our local union,” Brian Butler, president of USW Local 1-1937, said in a statement. “They picked the wrong fight … Our members have negotiated a contract that achieves many of our members’ goals and notably did not give Western Forest Products any concessions.”

The United Steelworkers union, which represents thousands of Western Forest Products employees at six mills on Vancouver Island, has been engaged in a nearly eight-month strike with the company.

It remains unclear when workers will return to their jobs or how long it will take for forestry-dependent island communities to recover from the strike, which began July 1.

The union admitted it did not achieve its goal of ending “what members believe are dangerous alternate shifts,” but did win improvements to the dispute process. Other highlights include a 12.5 per cent increase in the remaining years of a five-year agreement, as well as increases to life insurance and health benefits.

The union said the deal “sets the pattern” for future agreements in B.C.

Union members working for contractors also ratified the deal with 93 per cent support.