Students Support WFP Workers on Strike

The Selkirk College Students’ Union recently sent a letter to support for workers of Western Forest Products. Nearly 3,000 Western Forest Products employees and contracted workers at six Vancouver Island manufacturing plants and timberlands around the coast have been on strike since July 1. Members working for Western Forest Products (WFP) voted overwhelmingly (98.8% percent) in favour of taking strike action due to the fact that Western Forest Products has not seriously addressed the Local Unions proposals, particularly around health benefits. Furthermore, WFP continues to keep massive concessions on the bargaining table that threaten our members livelihoods.

It appears as of this writing that job action may continue for the foreseeable future despite discussions of returning to the table with a mediator. This comes after the company sent notice mid-August that it would no longer fund premiums to ensure the continuation of benefits for striking workers.

This strike has had wider impacts on labour in BC due to the issue of a hot edict from the BC Federation of Labour – the first in over a decade – which allows unions to strike in solidarity.

Re: ongoing labour dispute with workers represented by the United Steelworkers 

Dear Don, 

On behalf of the students of Selkirk College, we write to address the ongoing labour dispute between your company and the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937. It is our hope that, with the return to the bargaining table, the dispute comes to a swift end and that all parties involved are satisfied with the result. 

After time at Selkirk College, our students go on to careers in many fields across the province. Many graduates from our College continue on to work specifically in forest and lumber works, making them part of the future of the industry. It is our hope that that work is able to support starting a family, receive respect from the company, industry, and in the community, as well as make it possible to further invest in our education as the industry grows and changes. Given recent job action, it is clear that workers at your operation do not think that the current collective bargaining agreement and the offer your company has made so far in bargaining satisfy these conditions. 

Labour unions are one of British Columbians’ only avenues to implement democracy in the workplace. We trust that, if the democratic organisation of workers employed by your company deems your proposal unfit, then the proposal you have advanced is insufficient. Income inequality between the most wealthy in British Columbia and workers continues to widen to increasingly untenable proportions, and students cannot support furthering this divide at such a profitable company as yours. This is especially true given the prominence of forestry both within the province and at the federal level in its contributions to GDP. 

Furthermore, according to WFP’s 2017 and 2018 financial reports, the company made over $1 billion in sales and made a net profit of $74.4 million and $69.2 million respectively. In addition, the salaries of the CEO and Vice-President have steadily increased from $1.5 million in 2015 to $2 million in 2017 for the CEO, and from $500,000 in 2015 to $1.2 million in 2017 for the Vice-President. Students have no sympathy for wealthy corporate executives who ask workers to take a reduction in wages and benefits.