Chemainus sawmill protesters showed up with placards at a Western Forest Products job fair Friday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo, bringing issues pertaining to the company to light.
“We’ve got a bit of a gripe with WFP,” said Chris Hardy, a 32-year employee of the Chemainus sawmill dating back to when the new restructured mill opened in the mid-1980s.
“In the last 12 months, approximately 15 salaried people have resigned,” he noted as one of the key issues. “That got our interest. Here you are putting on a job fair.
“Why are people leaving in such numbers?”
Hardy, on behalf of the group, also challenged a recent company statement about reduced hours among employees that was published in the Courier Feb. 8.
“We have invested $7 million in the Chemainus facility over the past two years to modernize our operations and this has resulted in some reductions in employee hours impacting 15 positions,” read the statement from WFP’s head office.
“That’s not true, 24 employees were let go around Christmas time,” countered Hardy.
The bottom line is many employees are not pleased with the current work environment at the mill.
“Unlike in the past 30 years, top management have no interest in a relationship with their workforce,” he added. “We’ve asked for their presence/involvement at meetings, but it never happens. I’ve visited a number of companies in the U.S. that had high employee involvement just like we used to. It’s hard to go back to a traditional style of management giving up a competitive advantage.”
Mill manager Clayton Storey could not be reached for comment.
But the Courier did receive a comment from head office about the job fair.
“We value our employees and have processes in place to ensure concerns are addressed and resolved in a timely manner,” the statement read. “In fact, a member of management met with three of the four employees while they were at the job fair in Nanaimo.”
Hardy confirmed he had a conversation with Roger MacDougall, the director of labour relations for WFP, at the protest and feels satisfied they got their message across.
“We thought we accomplished our mission,” he said. “We spoke to a lot of people.
“My argument for defending and supporting and trying to promote what I have grown up with at Chemainus Sawmill is everyone’s a winner – management and union.
“I’ve got a lot invested in Chemainus Sawmill because it’s been good to me. All I and others want to do is make it as good for the people coming up.
“I’ve observed so much compassion and good will, I can’t turn my back on it,” Hardy added. “I want other people to have the same opportunities that many of us had.”
Hardy reminded the company’s slogan is “defining a higher standard.”