Employees at Tolko’s Soda Creek division are some of the 1,500 forestry workers prepared take a strike vote later this month. Tara Sprickerhoff photo

Employees at Tolko’s Soda Creek division are some of the 1,500 forestry workers prepared take a strike vote later this month. Tara Sprickerhoff photo

Tolko, Canfor, West Fraser employees among those to hold strike vote

Dispute could impact several northern B.C. communities

About 1,500 mill workers impacting 13 sites in northern B.C. are expected to take a strike vote sometime in the next week or so.

The move could impact all of Tolko Industries Ltd.’s employees in the north (including both mills in Williams Lake), half of all of Canfor’s work force located in Fort St. John, Houston, Isle Pierre and Prince George, as well as the West Fraser planer in Williams Lake, to name a few, said United Steelworkers Wood Council Chair Bob Matters Tuesday.

Matters also listed other northern sawmills which will see their employees take a strike vote — Lakeland Mills in Prince George, Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, Conifex Timber in Fort St. James and Mackenzie and Dunkley Lumber Ltd. between Quesnel and Hixon and Tolko’s Quest Wood in Quesnel.

“The employees have been quite frustrated,” said Matters.

“The employers don’t seem to be taking them seriously, so we’re going to get serious.”

Related: Union construction cost competitve, B.C. Building Trades say

The United Steelworkers Wood Council issued a statement Tuesday announcing the vote will be held at th northern forest products mills, whose owners are represented in bargaining by the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations.

“The employers are having one of the best economic years in decades and workers should share in this prosperity,” said Brian O’Rourke, president of USW Local 1-2017.

Lumber prices have been high despite the imposition of U.S. import duties in February 2017, upheld by the U.S. Commerce Department in December at an average level of more than 20 per cent. Prices hit record levels in June, pushed by seasonal impact of the 2017 forest fires, severe winter weather and strong demand from the U.S. housing market.

Related: Tolko resumes rebuilding fire-damaged sawmill in Williams Lake

In Williams Lake, the Lakeview sawmill is currently being rebuilt after being hit by a fire that caused extensive damage to the facility at the beginning of November, 2017.

The company has kept some of those workers in Williams Lake while others have gone to other Tolko sites for work while the sawmill is shutdown.

– With files from Tom Fletcher


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