28 February 2011
KELOWNA, BC - The United Steelworkers Interior Bargaining Committee will be meeting with the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA) on Wednesday here as it looks to kick-start stalled contract negotiations.
Talks broke off last November when the employer association tabled a revised set of proposals including concessions over a long-term contract.
"This time around we hope the IFLRA will be serious about bargaining a collective agreement," says USW Wood Council chair Bob Matters, the union's bargaining committee spokesperson. Sitting at the table with the IFLRA will also be Local 1-405 president Stan McMaster, Local 1-417 president Marty Gibbons and Local 1-423 president Bruce Gardner.
"The IFLRA is well-versed on the pattern agreement with Canfor, CONIFER with West Fraser (at two sawmills) and that it can reach an agreement with our union without much difficulty," says Matters.
Those pattern agreements include wage increases of 2 per cent in years three and four, additional seniority retention provisions, benefit improvements and wage rate adjustments for trades and power engineers.
Since contract talks began in May of 2009, there have been 14 overall days of talks with the IFLRA. Needless to say, while the union has inked collective agreements in the north and on the Coast of BC (with Western Forest Products, Forest Industrial Relations and "me-too employers"), southern Interior employers have put up barriers to a settlement. "The IFLRA has both Tolko and West Fraser and these employers have already settled with our union in the northern Interior," adds Matters. "There should be no hold on the talks with the IFLRA at all."
"In 2009 we told the IFLRA that it could get out front and be a leader in helping setting a pattern agreement for the Interior industry - instead they are following the pattern," says Matters. "Our members expect no less - although some IFLRA members companies have spent a good deal of time trying to convince our members they are not worthy of the pattern agreement."
source: Bob Matters, USW Wood Council Chairperson