10/4/07

Employer to sue striking union

TimberWest is planning on going through with a threat to sue the Steelworkers after the timber giant said the union reneged on a deal to retract damaging statements about the forestry company.

On Monday evening, the company and the union reached an agreement in which the Steelworkers’ agreed to apologize for inaccurate statements, said Steve Lorimer, of TimberWest.

The company wanted the pubic act of contrition for statements regarding the forestry, environmental, safety and business practices of TimberWest the union made last week at a Sustainable Forestry Initiative industry conference in the U.S., as well as simultaneous news conferences in Vancouver and Salt Lake City, Utah. “It’s disappointing that the union reneged on the deal,” said Lorimer.

When reached by the News Leader Pictorial, representative of the union said they had no comment.

In a news release yesterday, the company said it received and approved a retraction and apology in the form of a media statement prepared by the Steelworkers.

The union also committed to publicly issue the statement yesterday morning, said Lorimer.

In addition to that, he said the Steelworkers committed to remove web-links connecting the union’s website to videos

The company maintains are defamatory and to remove offensive information regarding TimberWest’s forestry practices from its various websites.

Last week the union released video images it claimed showed TimberWest’s forestry contractor cutting trees into a small Comox Valley lake.

TimberWest was quick to react and said the lake doesn't exist, and that the body of water was actually a flooded gravel flat.

Also on Tuesday, a Steelworkers' representative confirmed the union will not be publicly issuing the apology, Lorimer said.

“TimberWest is disappointed with the union’s decision to go back on its word and to break the agreement reached in good faith between the two parties,” he said.

The news release stated: “These actions leave TimberWest with no alternative but to proceed with litigation.”

Lorimer would not speculate if the pending legal action will impact negotiations between the company and the union.

However, president and CEO Paul McElligott said last week in a news release: "Our request for an apology and retraction has nothing to do with the current labour dispute.

"We will not stand by idly when false and defamatory statements are made, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against these malicious attacks."

Nearly 1,000 Valley steelworkers have been on strike since mid-July after months of negotiations failed to resolve the disputes around wages and other items.

In all, about 7,000 unionized workers at 34 companies are manning picket lines.

(cowichannewsleader.com)

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