Votes on sawmill contracts drawing mixed outcomes

The process of ratifying new agreements at northern B.C.'s unionized sawmills has hit some bumps.

United Steelworkers Local 2017 business agent Brian O'Rourke named on Monday nine operations where deals have been ratified and another three where votes remain pending.

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That leaves four where workers have rejected ratification.

Mills where the contracts have been accepted are Canfor's Isle Pierre, Polar and Chetwynd operations, Dunkley Lumber, Conifex in Fort St. James, Tolko's operations at Soda Creek in Williams Lake and Quest Wood in Quesnel and Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake.

Those where the proposed contracts were turned down are Lakeland Mills in Prince George, Canfor in Houston, Tolko's Lakeview Lumber and and West Fraser's Williams Lake planer.

Ratification votes remain outstanding at Conifex in Mackenzie and Canfor in Fort St. John and Vanderhoof.

Language on alternate shifts appears to be the biggest issue at the sites where workers voted to reject, O'Rourke said.

"The fear that the company's going to go ahead and implement all of these shifts," he said. "They may or may not depending on market conditions, but a lot of our operations currently run on alternate shifts whether they be four 10s or three 12s and it seems to be working quite well."

How statutory holidays are treated is a related concern. For stats that fall outside their regular work weeks, the members will still have to work the extra day and get the pay rather than get the day off in lieu, "and some people don't really like that too much," O'Rourke said.

For the mills where the contracts have been accepted, the employers have been notified and the members are in the process of receiving retroactive pay.

The agreements are for five years with wage increases totaling 10.5 per cent over the life of the contracts. Tentative agreements were announced on February 21.

Talks with West Fraser over new contracts for its sawmills in Fraser Lake and 100 Mile House and plywood plants in Quesnel and Williams also remain on the agenda.

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