IWA strike hits islands, picket lines expected soon

  • Nov. 26, 2003 7:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret- Hundreds of forest workers on the islands were at home this week after the IWA went out on strike Friday night (Nov. 21).
Many local forest workers had already been laid off, but many others were affected by the strike.
Markku Miettunen, a Sandspit resident and an executive board member for local 2171 of the IWA, said picket lines were being organized for various locations on the islands and would probably be up by the end of the week.
The strike was called after the group representing the logging companies, Forest Industrial Relations, imposed new conditions on workers. These include elimination of weekend overtime pay and compensation for travel time. On Friday, the provincially-appointed Labour Relations Board upheld their action.
“The way it stands right now, the employer is able to dictate the terms of employment,” Mr. Miettunen said.
The union offers strike assistance of $225 a week to workers who need it, with extra money available for dependents, he said.
“We are certainly advising the members on the Charlottes to seek alternate employment to keep the wolf from the door,” Mr. Miettunen said.
In Port Clements, where almost every family has a member working for Weyerhaeuser or its contractors, the feeling was “very scary” said one resident.
“There’s so many people that are just so shocked,” Betty Stewart said. Ms Stewart counts herself lucky because her husband works for non-unionized O’Brien Road and Bridge. However, several other members of her family are on strike.
“The rumour is this could go on for two years,” she said. “I’m just wondering if Weyerhaeuser is planning to pull out.”
Juskatla was quiet on Monday, with just 12 staff working in the Weyerhaeuser main office, said Queen Charlotte unit manager Ray Lorenzo.
“We’re not doing much, just making sure everything’s secure,” he said.
In Sandspit, area director Duane Gould said J.S. Jones had already shut down for the season, so the strike wasn’t making much different to the town.
He estimated there are probably 40 to 50 IWA members in town, but most had already been laid off.