British Columbia forestry workers go on strike

Around 6,500 members of Canada’s Wood Council of the United Steelworkers union (USW) have gone on strike in British Columbia.

The strike began at midnight on Friday, idling more than 30 forest companies, according to news reports.

At issue is a request by the USW to restrict wood product companies’ abilities to schedule some working shifts up to 12 hours long. Additionally, the union is arguing for better severance pay for partial mill closures.

“The industry is badly fragmented and is unable to reach common ground with our union on the fundamental issues affecting our members,” said Steve Hunt, director of USW Western Canada.

The union is striking against several companies, many represented by the bargaining group Forest Industrial Relations (FIR). Around 4,500 unionized workers are employed by FIR’s client companies.

“We have bargained in good faith, and the union has been effective in achieving many of its goals,” said Terry Lineker, president and CEO of FIR. “However, given the market pressures we face, we will not offer more because any further decline in our competitive position will severely damage the industry.”

FIR members include West Fraser Mills and Western Forest Products.