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

Coastal GasLink gets interim injunction against Unist’ot’en

The LNG pipeline company can start work Monday with enforcement approved by court.

B.C’s salmon advisory council skips Terrace

Public engagement tour excludes all non-coastal communities

Great kids doing great things for Houston

Members of the Houston Minor Hockey and the Houston Ringette canvassed the… Continue reading

Owners of mining project south of Houston allowed to drill again

New Nadina’s free miners certificate had been suspended in September

Council seeks to replace By-Mac Park’s boat launch

The boat launch is currently unusable; district has received several complaints

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

White House closer to partial shutdown with wall demand

Without a resolution, parts of the federal government will shut down at midnight on Friday, Dec. 21

Canucks score 3 power-play goals in 4-2 win over Oilers

Vancouver sniper Boeser has 6 goals in last 5 games

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

Most Read