The BC Federation of Labour has announced a “hot edict” on Western Forest Products in a show of solidarity with striking forest workers.
The move, welcomed by the United Steelworkers which represents many WFP workers in mills on the Island, means that members of the BCFED’s affiliated unions have been asked to no longer handle any WFP coastal lumber, log and wood products.
Approximately 1,500 of the company’s hourly employees, including hundreds at WFP mills in Cowichan Bay and Chemainus, and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C. commenced a strike on Canada Day.
The strike affects all of the company’s United Steelworkers certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in B.C.
“The announcement of a ‘hot edict’ is a significant but necessary escalation in what is frankly an employer-initiated dispute,” said Laird Cronk, president of the BCFED.
“Through the solidarity of affiliated unions, the company’s products could lay dormant.”
Babita Khunkhun, a spokeswoman for Western Forest Products, said the company respects the right of the union to exercise the hot-edict option.
She said WFP has a mitigation plan in place to deal with such situations during the strike, but couldn’t say exactly what the company will do about the hot edict.
“Right now our main focus is on returning to the bargaining table,” she said.
“There are currently no talks taking place, but we’re hopeful that the union will soon come back to the table. We’re ready to resume discussions at any time.”
The United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 have said its members, who voted 98.8 per cent in favour of striking, started the job action because the company has not seriously addressed union proposals and continues to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table as both sides try to negotiate a new collective agreement.
The company has said the strike is taking place at a “very challenging time” for the industry that is facing a market downturn due to low lumber prices and high costs because of the softwood lumber duties.
Steven Hunt, a USW spokesman, said the union is seeking to achieve a new agreement that ensures workers are treated with respect, share in the success of WFP and that benefits that have been successfully achieved in previous bargaining are protected.
“The company is attempting these draconian roll-backs to worker benefits and rights despite continued profitability,” he said.