• Workers at timber company Western Forest Products (TSX:WEF) have voted for a 12.5 per cent wage increase over five years.
  • The collective agreement also improves worker safety and health benefits
  • Company CEO Don Demens ‘pleased’ with the outcome
  • Union president Brian Butler said the deal was a template for future collective agreements
  • WEF shares jumped 0.74 per cent and traded at C$1.36 per share

Western Forest Products (TSX:WEF) employees have secured a collective agreement which will increase wages 12.5 percent over five years.

It replaces a previous agreement which expired on June 14, 2019, with the new one expiring on June 14, 2024.

President and CEO Don Demens said the deal gave the company some flexibility in its workforce and hopes to resume operations as soon as possible.

“We are pleased to have a new collective agreement in place that recognizes the important contributions our employees make and enables (the company) to serve our customers who, through their purchases support thousands of jobs on the coast of British Columbia,” he said.

“We are focused on planning for a safe return to work, and while our goal is to begin operating as soon as possible, start-up will be contingent on availability of employees and contractors, market demand, weather conditions and sufficient log supply.”

Under the agreement the company retains management rights to operate alternate shifts but has agreed to an ‘enhanced’ review process regarding shift work.

The workers were represented by the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 union.

In addition to the 12.5 per cent pay rise, the workers also secured a number of provisions, which include increased life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, health and welfare benefits; increased premiums for shift differential and first aid ticket holders; a safety boot allowance; controls on the company’s drug and alcohol policy; and contract language which protect union workers from working for WFP.   

Union president Brian Bulter said despite not achieving all of his members’ objectives, the negotiations had “set the pattern” for future collective agreements in coastal British Colombia.

“While we did not achieve our goal of ending what members believe are dangerous alternate shifts, we did improve the dispute process by ensuring that companies must make operational trials of safer shift schedules that the union proposes,” he said.

“(This is) in order for our members to demonstrate that there are other shift schedules, that are not only as productive at their desired shifts, but are safer for workers as well,”

“Going forward, it will be incumbent on WFP to understand that simply ignoring the safety of our members and forcing them to work on alternate shifts that members believe will lead to serious injuries and even fatalities, cannot continue.”

Western Forest Products shares jumped 0.74 per cent and traded at C$1.36.

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