Steelworkers call off rotating strikes

The union representing northern B.C.'s sawmill workers has called off its campaign of rotating strikes for the time being while also keeping an eye on negotiations to the south.

In a statement posted Thursday on its website, United Steelworkers Local 1-2017 said it and USW locals based in Kamloops, Kelowna and Cranbrook have agreed with the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association to mediation through the B.C. Labour Relations Board.

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The IFLRA represents employers in the southern Interior.

Mediated talks were scheduled for four days this week, the USW said, following an inability to reach a new agreement after the groups' fourth bargaining session, which ended Nov. 1.

"No job action will take place while the mediation process is engaged," the local said.

The local went on to say Canfor's recent announcement to curtail production by 10 per cent, "looks more like a bargaining tactic than a reflection of markets."

It said Canfor reported "record profits" in the third quarter.

Canfor reported third-quarter earnings of $125.3 million, doubled from the year before despite lower lumber prices, raising the year-to-date total to $407.3 million. However, the figure was down from the second quarter when Canfor took in $169.8 million.

"Forestry employers across the province have expressed concerns regarding high stumpage costs. Based on last quarter's lower lumber prices, that rate is expected to decrease accordingly beginning January of 2019," the local said.

It said the IFLRA has yet to match the last proposal put forward by the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations, the bargaining agent for 13 northern B.C. sawmills employing roughly 1,600 workers.

"Meanwhile, CONIFER continues to demand the concession of working 40 hours at straight time if a statutory holiday falls on a rest day, among others," the local said.

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