Local mill workers have sent a loud message to their employers.
Members of United Steelworkers Local 1-423 voted 97.5 per cent in favour of strike action to back contract demands, though the local president is hopeful a new collective agreement will be reached this week.
The numbers include about 500 North Okanagan workers at Tolko’s sawmill and plywood plant in Armstrong, veneer mill in Lumby and forest techs and road crews that work out of Tolko’s Lumby office.
The main demand from the workers involves shift scheduling.
“The employer is looking for shift schedules in our industry that gives up consecutive days off,” said Armstrong’ Pat McGregor, president of Local 1-423. “That is a huge issue. It’s the No. 1 issue our members are telling us they do not want to give up as part of our lifestyle.”
The steelworkers are in mediation talks currently with the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association which represents the member companies in bargaining. Those include Tolko, West Fraser, Aspen Planers and Weyerhauser.
A wage structure has already been agreed to.
The sides returned to the table at the B.C. Labour Board Thursday in Vancouver.
“We hope to have a deal Thursday or Friday,” said McGregor on Wednesday afternoon. “With a strong strike mandate, we feel we can reach an agreement with the employers over the next few days. We’re making progress.
“The employers needed a little more of a push to get off the, we call them, split shifting schedules, and this mandate should be more than ample to send a clear message to the employer what the membership wants.”
The local steelworkers’ collective agreement expired June 30.