Talks begin with Canfor union employees

Unionized workers from Canfor-Vavenby were to meet on Sunday to discuss arrangements asked for by the company as a possible first step to reopening, according to a member of the Vavenby sub-local plant committee.

Unionized workers from Canfor-Vavenby were to meet on Sunday to discuss arrangements asked for by the company as a possible first step to reopening, according to a member of the Vavenby sub-local plant committee.

“It’s mostly housekeeping items, not any huge rollback,” he said. “I think it will be well-received by the crew.”

One of the major items on the agenda was to be the elimination of the Vavenby division’s bush crew. At one time the local operation did pretty well all its own logging but, over the last few decades, it has followed the trend in the industry and moved almost entirely to contract logging.

There are still about four workers in the bush crew, however. The plant committee member emphasized that he has not been directly involved with the negotiations with the company but he understood the four would be offered the choice of either a severance package or the option of working in the mill, if and when it reopens.

Eliminating the bush crew would bring the operations at Canfor-Vavenby in line with those at other Canfor divisions, he said.

The sub-local representative also emphasized that nothing is set in stone, but his understanding of the process was that, if the workers voted to accept the company’s proposals on Sunday, then a proposal would go before the Canfor board to spend money on capital improvements to the Vavenby operation. If that approval is given and if the improvements go ahead, then the sawmill could reopen on a one-shift basis, possibly in early July. The planer mill would follow about two weeks later, also on a one-shift basis. If all goes well and markets continue to improve, a second shift could be added in about three months.

The proposed capital improvements would result in the loss of some jobs but no major reductions, the plant committee member said.

When Canfor shut down its Vavenby operation in the summer of 2009 it put about 160 union members out of work, he believed. Some have since retired, others have gone to work elsewhere, and at least one has died, but the sub-local representative felt the vast majority would still be available, if and when the division resumes operation.

The representative understood the company also is talking with its logging and trucking contractors in preparation for a possible reopening.

“My glass is half full, not half empty right now,” he said.

Look for a report on the outcome of Sunday’s meeting on www.clearwatertimes.com early this week.