Union workers approve plan for Canfor-Vavenby

A meeting of unionized Canfor-Vavenby workers on Sunday overwhelmingly endorsed arrangements with the company designed to the local sawmill operation

A meeting of unionized Canfor-Vavenby workers on Sunday overwhelmingly endorsed arrangements with the company designed to the local sawmill operation.

“The membership showed up in force and ratified the propose changes,” said Marty Gibbons, president of Steelworkers Local 1-417. “With this done we have been told that a proposal to invest more than $24 million in the Vavenby operation would be put before the Canfor board this week.”

Gibbons said that if the construction goes well Vavenby could be running on one shift by August and with a second shift starting three months after that.

“This will put almost 130 people back to work in the community of Clearwater,” he said. “It’s tremendously good news.”

Gibbons noted that not all the workers who were laid off when Canfor shut down its Vavenby operation during the summer of 2009 would return to work. Some have left the area, others have retired, and at least a few will be offered severance packages or the choice of alternate jobs.

The Steelworkers president said the proposed changes do not include any additional reductions from the Canfor Pattern ratified nearly one year ago. It does, however, include a modified reimbursement method that will be based on mill production numbers.

The Kamloops area Local president made a point of noting that if the mill restarts, it would be with all the components of the Canfor Agreement that the Interior Forest Labor Relations Association (IFLRA) has stated that an Interior mill cannot operate under, including:

∞ Paid lunches on 12-hour shifts;

∞ Shifting language that enables the company to only implement either 4X10 hours or 3X12 hour shifts (no splits);

∞ Statutory holidays on alternate shifts paid at the regular hours of the shift, not eight hours;

∞ Profit sharing almost six times what has been proposed by IFLRA;

∞ Language that prevents foremen from taking union jobs;

∞ Significantly superior safety language;

∞ Superior severance language; and

∞ Language that requires employers to have employee and family assistant programs.

“The workers and the union have done our part,” said Gibbons. “I think it’s a good agreement that both sides can be proud of.”

“Vavenby has a good wood supply and a great work force. Moving forward, we predict good things,” said the union president.

Canfor spokesperson Dave Lefebvre commented, “We are very encouraged that our employees are working with us to find a solution that positions Vavenby well for the future.”

The company spokesperson said Canfor still has a few pieces of the puzzle that to examine. He said they hope to have an update later this week.