Sawmill talks go to mediation

Talks between workers and employers at 13 northern B.C. sawmills and the employers' bargaining agent have gone to mediation.

The bargaining committee began the process with the Labour Relation Board on Monday, according to a posting on the United Steelworkers Local 1-2017 website.

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The local also had some words for Conifer, the agency representing employers, saying it had spent last Monday and Tuesday "continuing to use a common sense approach in an attempt to avoid a strike" only to be served notice on Wednesday that Conifer had applied to bring in a mediator.

"What is truly concerning is Conifer's unwavering position that their concessionary agenda must be addressed," the union continued.

It said Conifer is offering a six-year contract with "pathetic" wage increases ranging from 0.5 to 1.5 per cent and a new hire rate starting at 85 per cent of the job rate.

Conifer is also seeking language that forces workers on alternate shifts to work their statutory holidays for straight time, a doubling of the probation period for new employees and refusal to allow union representation at meetings that could lead to discipline.

And the union said Conifer is wants to shift a series of benefit costs to workers.

In August, 1,509 members, or 93 per cent of those who voted, gave the union's bargaining committee authority to issued 72-hour strike notice.

A Conifer representative has said the agency will not be talking to media before a contract has been ratified.

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