Union members at Tolko’s Heffley Creek mill walk the picket line on Monday, Dec. 3.                                Photograph By Facebook

Union members at Tolko’s Heffley Creek mill walk the picket line on Monday, Dec. 3. Photograph By Facebook

Picket lines are up at Tolko’s Heffley Creek mill

Forestry workers from the Tolko plywood and venner plant in Heffley Creek were on the picket line Monday as the United Steelworkers, representing union shops in the southern Interior, began rotating strikes.

The picket line went up at midnight and was scheduled to come down at 11 p.m. with more locals planned to be on strike in the days to come.

USW Local 1-405 members at Interfor Castlegar, along with Local 1-423 members at Interfor Grand Forks, initiated 24-hour strikes on Nov. 26 — the first planned job action among the southern Interior locals after the union broke off mediated talks with the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association the previous week.

Workers at the southern Interior mills have been without a new contract since the end of June.

Issues raised by the union include being locked into a long-term contract with small wage increases.

Negotiations between the two sides has the union proposing a three per cent per year wage increase over four years, compared to the IFLRA’s offer of two per cent per year over five years, according to a bargaining update from USW 1-417 president Marty Gibbons.

Gibbons told KTW he doesn’t view that as a “huge gap” but said the company has been “inflexible” and left the union with no choice but to strike.

IFLRA president Jeff Roos said in an emailed statement that it was unfortunate the union “did not see value in continuing discussions,” adding the employers remain open to returning to the bargaining table.

Gibbons said the union also wants to get back to the bargaining table, but wants assurances from the IFLRA that it will return with a “fresh perspective on bargaining, not a regurgatation of previous positions.”

The strike at the Heffley Creek mill is being done in co-ordination with two other strikes in USW 1-423 (Kelowna).

Most rotating strikes planned by USW are scheduled to last for a 24-hour period.