8/18/07

British Columbia forestry strike leads to lockout

After TimberWest attempted to renew its collective agreement with Steelworkers Union locals 1-80 and 1-363, including a restructured contractor model, the union chose to serve strike notice rather than continue negotiations. Today TimberWest responded by serving lockout notice.

The lockout will be effective as of 4 p.m. Monday, August 20, 2007. It has been served to terminate the Coast Master Agreement and the Woodlands Letter of Understanding that the company is now operating under. The lock out puts TimberWest on a level playing field with Island Timberlands, Interfor, and FIR member companies who have all been struck by the USW. With the USW strike action underway, none of those companies have a collective agreement in place and they are no longer bound by any of the terms and conditions of the previous agreement.

"This lockout notice serves to highlight the importance of a restructured contractor model to TimberWest. There is still too much volume in the hands of too few contractors," said Steve Lorimer, Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations. "This lockout notice puts TimberWest in the same position as the rest of the industry," added Lorimer.

TimberWest has also tabled a revised final offer for a new collective agreement and has asked that the BC Labour Relations Board conduct a secret ballot vote.

TimberWest's offer contains three key features:
- An 11% increase in wages over five years.

- A $100,000 signing bonus for each engineer and forester who is eligible to vote on the final offer, if the final offer is ratified.

- A simplified contractor model that is more closely aligned with that which is in place elsewhere in the Coastal forest industry and puts TimberWest on a more stable footing with its global competitors.

"Companies must stay competitive so that employees and contractors who depend on forestry continue to have safe, good-paying and stable jobs," said Steve Lorimer. "We need a collective agreement that will provide communities on Vancouver Island with a viable forest industry for the long-term."

According to Lorimer, "A simplified contractor model will allow for competitive and stable logging operations while protecting the rights of the Steelworkers. The model will create the ability for more operators to enter the marketplace, and improve overall safety by allowing the company to sub-divide operations to smaller Steelworker certified contractors, which will provide financial stability and a more secure work environment." He added that "TimberWest's competitors operate with smaller unionized contractors."

The company's final offer has been modified from an earlier one placed before the BC Labour Relations Board to comply with representational issues raised by the Board. The company also plans to appeal the Board's ruling that its earlier proposal was inconsistent with the law and the policy of the code.

(cnw.ca)

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