Union denies employer's request for strikers' vote

Andy Byrne, a local forestry businessman, feels the United Steelworkers Union (USW) is giving its membership a raw deal. Byrne owns A Byrne Trucking, A Byrne Forest Products and Granet Lake Logging.

He argues the 11-week-old forestry strike could have been avoided if the union members had more knowledge of the details within the original Forest Industrial Relations (FIR) offer.

"Most of them, I don't think, are aware of what the final offer was," Byrne said. "So many of them don't really know why they're out there."

Gary Kobayashi, USW Local 1-2171 business agent, said FIR's request for a USW membership vote was an attempt to gain a bargaining advantage. By gauging the membership, they could offer USW a deal worthy of only 51 per cent approval. "It's a game we can't allow them to play," he said.

FIR could have forced a union vote through the BC Labour Relations Board, but they did not, which is why Kobayashi believes it was a disingenuous offer.

"It did not address one single issue we had on the table," he said. "I don't even view it as a serious proposal."

But Byrne believes the offer was closer to USW demands than union officials want members to believe.

"They're not recognizing the membership," Byrne said. "We encourage all USW members to get the facts and demand your right to vote on FIR's offer."

Kobayashi said although FIR was not interested in bringing in a mediator, he is still optimistic the strike can be resolved sooner than later. "There are certainly a lot of companies within FIR that want to start up," he said. But apart from Kobayashi's gut feelings, there are no indications both sides will come to an agreement anytime soon.


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