Steelworkers and Canfor reach tentative agreement

Canfor steelworkers union has averted a strike and worked out a tentative agreement with the Canfor Corporation late Friday night, Nov. 15.

Canfor steelworkers union has averted a strike and worked out a tentative agreement with the Canfor Corporation late Friday night, Nov. 15.

“In general terms, the five-year agreement provides significant pay enhancements for trades[people], improvements to health and welfare benefits, stabilizes the pension plan, and seriously strengthens contract language surrounding use of chargehands,” said a statement issued by the union.

Frank Everitt, President of the United Steelworkers (USW), said they were bargaining for five months, had five days of mediation, and met with the Interior Forests Labour Relations Association (IFLRA).

He said they almost booked out of talks with Canfor but managed to reach a tentative agreement at 10:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15.

Everitt says members of the USW will vote on the five-year tentative agreement this week Thursday and Friday.

The agreement says that a pilot project will be established in the local 1-424 area, Quesnel to Fort Nelson to Smithers, to create a mobile trades unit of USW members.

The new unit of tradespeople will replace contractors doing millwright and electrical-type work for Canfor.

Asked why they pursued that aspect of the agreement, Everitt said it was because of the shortage of tradespersons.

“This is one way to try and assist in addressing that [trades shortage],” said Everitt, adding that they are also putting more apprentices in the operation.

“This is not a permanent thing, it’s just a temporary thing to try and get through the next number of years,” he said.

The pilot project is a year-long project starting July 2014 or sooner, Everitt said.

Other aspects of the five-year agreement include the compensation package, health and welfare package and other contract enhancements for steelworkers.

The agreement lists wage increases, two to three percent each year from 2013 to 2017, with a total increase of 13 percent by 2017.

Trades adjustments would increase 50 cents each year, and there would be cash payments for employees – $400 when the deal is made and $1,000 each year 2015 to 2017.

The agreement states that as of July 1, 2014, company contributions to the pension plan will increase by $1.00 per hour worked, and employee contributions will increase by 60 cents per hour.

The agreement also includes a carpenter rate adjustment, a log scaler premium, and recognition of Family Day as a statutory holiday.

Changes to the Health and Welfare Package include lifetime limits for extended health benefits increasing from $60,000 to $300,000, a direct-pay drug card, more orthodontic and vision care coverage, as well as medical travel allowance and a weekly indemnity rate increase.

Under the agreement, living out allowances for apprentices will double to $40 per day, $280 per week, and mileage will be doubled to 50 cents a kilometre.

There will be an extra schedule of four to 10 hour shifts Monday to Friday to balance production, and if used, employees will have a premium of 75 cents per hour and a four day weekend every six weeks.

Employees will contribute one cent per hour to the USW Humanity Fund, which supports members of the Burns Lake and Lakeland mills and donated to various northern food banks.