Western Forest Products Announces Strike Action by United Steelworkers
Western Forest Products Inc. (“Western” or the “Company”) announced that as of 3:45 pm the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 (“USW”), the union representing approximately 1,500 of the Company’s hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for the Company’s timberland operators and contractors in British Columbia, has commenced a strike. The strike affects all of the Company’s USW certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in British Columbia.
Western has been in negotiations with the USW since April 2019 for a new collective agreement to replace the Company’s prior agreement which expired in mid-June. The USW served seventy-two (72) hours’ notice of strike action on the Company, and some of its contractors, on June 28, 2019. The Company applied to the British Columbia Labour Relations Board on June 25, 2019 for the appointment of a mediator to assist in negotiations and has since made multiple requests to meet with the USW and a mediator. To date, the USW has not agreed to meet.
“It is extremely disappointing that the USW has chosen to take strike action”, said Don Demens, President & Chief Executive Officer of Western. “After cancelling scheduled bargaining sessions and refusing mediation, it’s clear that the USW is intent on inflicting damage to the coastal forest industry which already faces significant market challenges, including having to pay the highest softwood lumber duties for shipments to the United States of any jurisdiction in Canada and the loss of market share in Japan due to Japanese government subsidies for their domestic industry. We remain hopeful that they will agree to meet with a mediator so as to minimize the disruption on our employees, communities and customers”.
The Company has been working to negotiate a new collective agreement with the USW, as has been achieved in the northern and southern interior of British Columbia, where the United Steelworkers and the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations and Interior Forest Labour Relations Association, respectively, have ratified new collective agreements. The actions taken by the USW come at a time when British Columbia forestry companies are curtailing production and shutting down mills due to poor market conditions.
The Company has commenced its work stoppage contingency plan and is working to mitigate the potential impact of the strike on its business partners and customers.
About Western Forest Products Inc.
Western is an integrated forest products company building a margin-focused log and lumber business to compete successfully in global softwood markets. With operations and employees located primarily on the coast of British Columbia and Washington State, Western is a premier supplier of high-value, specialty forest products to worldwide markets. Western has a lumber capacity in excess of 1.1 billion board feet from eight sawmills and four remanufacturing facilities. The Company sources timber from its private lands, long-term licenses, First Nations arrangements, and market purchases. Western supplements its production through a wholesale program providing customers with a comprehensive range of specialty products.
Stephen Williams – Executive Vice President & CFO – (604) 648-4500
Source: Western Forest Products Inc.