Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CONIFER and USW Interior Locals to Resume Negotiations in August

24 JULY 2009

PRINCE GEORGE, BC – Following a meeting with the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations on Tuesday, the USW’s Interior Negotiating Committee will resume negotiations with employers on August 11 in the city of Williams Lake, south of here.

The July 21 meeting was held to provide the union a chance to explain and detail its demands, both monetary and non-monetary. A July 22 bargaining session was put off as both the industry and the union decided the time would be better used in caucusing.

“We verbally explained our demands and are presenting the industry with contract language clauses during the negotiation process,” says Bob Matters, chair of the USW Wood Council and chair of the bargaining committee. Matters is joined at the table by Local 1-424 President Frank Everitt, Local 1-425 president Bill Derbyshire (whose locals have CONIFER companies) and Local 1-405 president Stan McMaster, Local 1-417 president Marty Gibbons and Local 1-423 president Bruce Gardner.

“The fact that we are talking and meeting and going through the details of contract language is a good thing, even though it’s far too early to tell how things will progress,” says Matters.

On Wednesday the union circulated its latest bargaining bulletin to deal with a supervisor-spread rumour that employers can do anything they want after the June 30, 2009 contract expiry date.

Members are informed that all the terms and conditions of the current collective agreement apply until a new collective agreement is reached or until a strike or lockout occurs.

Matters says the industry is intent on getting marked cost savings in a renewed agreement.

“The industry itself has to realize that our members are seeking better job security,” he adds. “We’re not talking about just seniority or severance pay, we want to see this industry commit to investment and the production of new products for new markets.”

The union is attempting to set a pattern agreement with CONIFER and then proceed to bargaining tables with other employers in the northern and southern Interior regions. Contract proposals have been exchanged with the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association in the south and with Canfor and West Fraser in the north.

“We need to maintain a level playing field in the forest industry in all parts of the Interior,” says Matters. “The industry has historically evolved with this level playing field as various companies have sought specialty markets along side regular commodity markets.”

“Interior sawmill and panel plants are among the most productive in the world and they got that way with a level playing field,” adds the Wood Council chair.

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