Skeena Sawmills and United Steelworkers Local (USW) 1-1937 have signed a new labour agreement after five months of negotiations.
“The negotiation process was respectful and productive, reflecting our strong working relationship with the USW, and we appreciate the negotiating team’s commitment to reaching an agreement that meets the needs of their members and our company,” Roger Keery, Skeena Sawmills president in a media release.
The four and a half year long deal was ratified on May 19, 2020 and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020. The labour agreement aligns wages and benefits with other agreements in the industry.
It also contains provisions that recognizing the ‘cultural needs of Indigenous employees.’ For example, should the federal government make National Indigenous People’s Day a public holiday, it would become a statutory holiday under the agreement.
Also, provisions for bereavement leave are expanded for First Nation employees to recognize cultural differences in the definition of family members.
“The new collective agreement delivers important benefits to our members, including improvements in wages and benefits and improved contracting out language,” said Rick Nelson, USW Local 1-1937 vice president.
“While negotiations and ratification were complicated by the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to have been able to deliver this strong agreement for our members.”
Negotiations began under normal conditions and shifted to conference calls due to COVID-19. Voting was done at the mill site and followed physical distancing procedures.
Skeena Sawmills is headquartered in Vancouver and its sawmill operations are based in Terrace. A sister company, Skeena Bioenergy, operates a pellet plant next to the sawmill.
Skeena Sawmills and Bioenergy directly employ 150 people producing hemlock balsam products for pacific rim and North American markets. It also produces western red cedar products for the North American market. The mill has a annual production capacity of around 120 million board feet of lumber.
USW Local 1-1937 represents more than 6,000 members in all sectors of coastal British Columbia including Vancouver Island, coastal islands including Haida Gwaii and the mainland coast area from the Alaskan border south to the Washington State border.
“This agreement provides the labour certainty Skeena needs as we continue to plan for expansion and upgrading our sawmill,” said Keery in the release. Skeena Sawmills is in the process of upgrading its large log line and headrig. Future plans include a new small log canter, dry kilns and lumber scanning equipment.