Forestry workers have ratified a new five-year contract amidst various closures and layoffs at area sawmills.
The agreement is for five years, with about two per cent increases every year, retroactive to July 1, 2018.
It was approved by United Steelworkers Local 1-417, which represents workers in Kamloops, by a margin of 84 per cent.
Locals for the Kamloops, Kelowna and Cranbrook areas were tabled a final offer from the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA). Though the offer wasn’t signed off on by the union’s provincial bargaining committee, it was put to membership for a vote.
The new contract will expire on June 30, 2023.
Multiple forestry companies have announced closures and layoffs recently, citing a lack of timber supply, high log costs and weakening lumber markets in the decisions.
West Fraser will permanently close its Chasm sawmill north of Clinton, eliminating 176 jobs, and cut a shift from its 100 Mile House mill in the third quarter of 2019, affecting 34 employees.
That news followed an announcement from Canfor earlier this month that it will shutter its Vavenby mill, east of Clearwater and about 90 minutes north of Kamloops, costing 178 people their jobs.
In May, Aspen Planers announced it was cutting 50 employees from its Merritt operation.
In a bargaining update announcing the new contract, USW 1-417 president Marty Gibbons said union leaders are working with government and industry to find solutions to the “tremendous pressures our members and B.C.’s Interior forest industry are facing during this difficult time.”
Gibbons did not immediately respond to KTW for comment.
USW Local 1-417 represents forestry workers in areas including Kamloops, Clearwater, Salmon Arm, Merritt and Clinton.