As of Saturday, Oct. 6, United Steelworkers Local 1-2017 – which represents Houston Canfor’s workers – is in a legal strike position. (Black Press file photo)

Canfor sawmill workers ready to strike in Houston

We had the assistance of a mediator and we didn’t make any headway: Union

Workers at Canfor’s sawmill in Houston, along with other sawmill workers in northern B.C., are ready to go on strike.

READ MORE: Steelworkers union issues strike notice affecting 1,500 mill workers in northern B.C.

READ MORE: Canfor workers to take strike vote

United Steelworkers Local 1-2017, which represents more than 1,500 forestry workers in B.C., issued a 72-hour strike notice on Oct. 3.

“As of Saturday [Oct. 6] the union is in a legal strike position,” explained union president Brian O’Rourke last week. However, that is a decision that shall be made at the appropriate time; just because notice is served we do not have to act upon it.”

Canfor’s workers are represented in bargaining by the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations (Conifer).

Conifer and the union have been engaged in collective bargaining since May 29 , 2018. The parties have spent fifteen days in negotiations, culminating with five full days of mediation at the end of September.

“We had the assistance of a mediator for five days and we didn’t make any headway,” O’Rourke told Black Press.

The union believes the employers should come to the bargaining table better prepared to address workers’ issues, given the strong lumber market.

Lumber prices have been high despite the imposition of U.S. import duties in February 2017, upheld by the U.S. Commerce Department in December at an average level of more than 20 per cent. Prices hit record levels in June, pushed by seasonal impact of the 2017 forest fires, severe winter weather and strong demand from the U.S. housing market.

The union has proposed changes to the collective agreement that include leave for members struggling with domestic violence and pension funding improvement.

Mills in Burns Lake, Fort St. James and Prince George could also be affected.

Steve Zika, chief executive officer of Hampton Lumber, which owns Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, told Houston Today he’s still hopeful that a settlement can be negotiated.

“No one wishes for a strike,” he said. “I would rather remain optimistic and not speculate on the effects of a strike by the union.”

Conifer released a statement Thursday saying they were disappointed the union has chosen to issue a strike notice.

“There are a few topics requiring resolution in order to realize a tentative agreement between Conifer and the United Steelworkers,” said Mike Bryce, Conifer’s executive director. “We are optimistic that a resolution to the outstanding topics can be achieved.”

– With files from Tom Fletcher

Just Posted

Mill undergoing four-week shutdown

Canfor closing other mills as well

Smithers man receives two-year sentence for fatal car crash

Over a year after a fatal crash, a Smithers man has been sentenced to two years plus a day in jail.

First Nations push for massive conservation area in northern B.C.

Includes ancestral areas of three Kaska Dena First Nations, just shy of the B.C.-Yukon border

Tahltan reach benefits agreement over Seabridge’s massive KSM gold mine project

$308M agreement provides additional billions for Tahltan jobs, contracts

B.C. court to mull continuing order against Coastal Gaslink pipeline opponents

Coastal GasLink was granted an interim injunction in December following arrests and protests

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Police probe report of shooting as Raptors rally continues

There were reports of a woman being injured at the event that celebrates the team’s NBA title win

Oil and gas sector cautious as deadline on Trans Mountain decision nears

Trudeau government expected to announce whether it will approve pipeline for second time on Tuesday

Skipping school costs a dozen B.C. students chance at a new car

Cowichan’s Jared Lammi showed up and won $5,000 cheque toward vehicle, but he can’t drive

People throwing food at a bear in Fernie alarms conservation groups

“Approaching and feeding bears contributes to habituation,” says conservation group

Feds announce $50M strategy to fight dementia

Emphasis is on prevention and and supporting caregivers

Federal Liberals’ plan to help first-time homebuyers to kick in weeks before election

Ottawa to pick up 5% of a mortgage on existing homes for households that earn under $120,000 a year

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Most Read