Western Forest Products and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 have reached a tentative agreement to end a more than seven-month-long strike. Pictured here, workers during a rally in Nanaimo on Nov. 6, 2019. (Black Press File Photo)

Western Forest Products and union confirm agreement

USW Local 1-1937 ratify deal that includes a 12.5 per cent increase in wages

The strike that battered the coastal forest industry for nearly eighth months is officially over.

Eight-one per cent of the United Steel Workers Local 1-19137 membership voted in favour of ratifying the tentative agreement with Western Forest Products.

The agreement includes a 12.5 per cent increase in wages in two- and three-percent increments over five years, increased premiums for those with first aid, a safety boot allowance and changes to policies on shift work. It also includes zero concessions.

Western Forest Products said in a statement the new five-year collective agreement is retroactive to June 15, 2019. Workers have been without a contract since June 14, 2019.

Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 announced last Monday they had agreed to the terms of a tentative collective agreement.

“With the assistance of special mediators, Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers, we have reached a fair and equitable agreement that balances the needs of our employees and our business,” said Don Demens, President and Chief Executive Officer of Western. “This has been a particularly challenging time and I’m pleased that we were able to find common ground through the efforts of all involved.”

The strike has impacted families up and down the Island, but it has been felt especially hard by North Island communities. A grassroots group called Loonies for Loggers began and has been helping support families on the Island who are affected by the strike since the fall.

The development comes after months at a standstill.

Among the issues for the union were alternate shifts and a company drug and alcohol policy.

In mid-December, the union had said it was willing to modify its position if talks progressed.

But they broke off just before Christmas.

Mediators called the parties back to mediation at the end of January and in early February said they would review their positions.

Earlier this month, Ready and Rogers withdrew from the mediation process. At the time, they said they saw “no basis for a negotiated settlement.”

They were re-appointed Thursday morning (Feb. 6) by Harry Bains, Minister of Labour and given “additional powers under the Labour Relations Code.”

“This dispute has taken a huge toll on workers and their families as well as the entire coastal forestry community,” he said in a Feb. 6 press release. “We want to see everyone get back on the job.”

USW membership was set to have a ratification vote on the tentative agreement. The USW bargaining committee has said they will be advising members to accept the agreement.

In a Feb. 10 statement, Brian Butler, president of USW Local-1937, said the details of the agreement would not be released until after the union’s members have a chance to look at and vote on the terms of the agreement. The vote was to be announced after the AV News went to press.

forestry

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