The strike by United Steelworkers at Western Forest Products’ mills is entering its second month. (File photo)

LRB upholds right of labour movement to declare “hot edict” in WFP strike

Strike at Western Forest Products enters second month

The BC Federation of Labour has the right to use a hot edict to put economic pressure on Western Forest Products during the ongoing labour dispute, B.C.’s Labour Relations Board has ruled.

On July 29, the LRB ruled on a challenge by WFP that sought to limit the scope of the hot edict and have it struck down.

The call for a hot edict by the BCFED in early July, the first in a decade by the federation, means that members of the BCFED’s affiliated unions are being asked to no longer handle any coastal lumber, log and wood products from WFP while the strike lasts.

RELATED STORY: FEDERATION OF LABOUR SUPPORTS STRIKING WFP WORKERS WITH ‘HOT EDICT’

“This ruling recognizes and upholds the power of the labour movement to use a key solidarity action to help one another during a dispute with an unfair employer,” said Laird Cronk, president of the BCFED.

“B.C.’s labour movement took a stand for these workers and their families facing the threat of losing their pensions. We hope this hot edict brings the company back to the negotiation table without the draconian concessions.”

Cronk said the LRB ruling is significant as it upholds not only the legality of the hot edict itself, but the ability of unions to treat goods, produced by a struck operation before the strike commenced, as hot.

“This ruling is a victory for working people in this province,” said Cronk.

“It shows when workers stand up for each other, we can make a real impact.”

Babita Khunkhun, a spokeswoman for WFP, said the company is pleased that, as part of the ruling, the LRB has determined that the hot declaration does not allow the union to picket at locations where they do not normally work or, otherwise, interfere with other workers at these locations.

Approximately 1,500 of WFP’s hourly employees who are members of the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937, including hundreds at WFP mills in Cowichan Bay and Chemainus, and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C., commenced a strike on Canada Day.

RELATED STORY: STRIKE ACTION COMMENCES AT WFP MILLS

The strike affects all of the company’s Steelworkers certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in B.C.

The company and the union have both said they want mediation but have disagreed over who should take on the role.

Khunkhun said WFP is hopeful that the LRB will appoint a mediator soon.

“That way, the parties can get back to the bargaining table to negotiate a collective agreement that ensures a sustainable coastal forest industry,” she said.

Last week, WFP said it plans to cut back production at its Ladysmith sawmill mainly as a result of the strike.

The company claims log supplies to the mill have been impacted by the strike and it will temporarily curtail operations once its log supplies dry up, expected in early August.

The curtailment will impact 67 unionized employees represented by the Public and Private Workers of Canada.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN BAY SAWMILL TO SHUTTER OPERATIONS FOR TWO WEEKS

The Steelworkers have stated that its members, who voted 98.8 per cent in favour of striking, started the job action because the company has not seriously addressed union proposals and continues to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table as both sides try to negotiate a new collective agreement.

The company has said the strike is taking place at a “very challenging time” for the industry, which is facing a market downturn due to low lumber prices and high costs because of the softwood lumber duties.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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