Al Bieksa- Union President
Friday, May 22nd, 2020
Dear CIPA USW Members,
We understand that rumours have surfaced at CIPA alleging that our union is abandoning its members. Clearly management underestimates the intelligence of our members, thinking that misleading our members will take away support for our union just as we are about to resume bargaining for an improved collective agreement.
Yes bargaining! You all remember what has happened in bargaining so far? Let us refresh your memory.
On December 20, 2019, your bargaining committee met with CIPA to bargain a fair and equitable collective agreement. It’s been a long 5 year contract and there are many issues that our members have mandated us to have addressed. But the Company instead chose to spend a considerable amount of time trying to convince your coworkers on the bargaining committee that they needed to know all of your monetary proposals before listening, considering or responding to any of your non-monetary proposals.
Your bargaining committee presented approximately 33 non-monetary proposals, each one designed to remedy practices and issues important to the workers at CIPA. The Company refused to respond to any of them. We can only assume that they don’t think your concerns are important or worthy of serious discussion.
On March 11, 2020 your bargaining committee met for a second day with CIPA. We had hoped that they would have changed their approach and taken seriously your concerns. Once again, CIPA refused to respond to any of your non-monetary or health and safety proposals. They continued to demand we present your monetary proposals. We refused because we wanted both sides of the table to focus solely on the non-monetary items first. We’ve been at enough bargaining tables to know that once the money issue hits the table, the non-monetary stuff gets ignored by employers. We won’t play that game with CIPA. CIPA responded with a position that they needed more time to consider whether they were willing to give your union’s bargaining committee responses to the non-monetary proposals and immediately cancelled all future scheduled dates.
Within two days, the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic was being felt right across our entire Local. For two months all bargaining was put on hold in respect of physical distancing requirements issued by the Provincial Health Officer. Our local officers poured all their energy into dealing with the issues from this terrible pandemic. There wasn’t a single workplace that wasn’t affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some places closed, others had significant curtailments and others faced the uncertainty of working in high risk long term care facilities. However, all the while we never forgot that we needed to get back to the bargaining table as soon as it was safe to do so. As the curve started to flatten we began to strategize on how to resume bargaining with many of our bargaining units, including CIPA. We sent a letter to all of the employers that had commenced bargaining before the pandemic and invited them to participate in video/virtual bargaining sessions.
To our surprise CIPA management agreed and responded to our call letter “I am happy to advise that our Company too believes there is an opportunity for the parties to try to implement an effective, safe method in which we can resume the conduct of our negotiations.” We were in the process of agreeing to bargaining dates when the rumours started to fly around the plant about our union letting down its members, specifically around support for Mosaic who will export logs, leaving CIPA without access to that fibre. We can only assume these rumours were started by the managers because they are completely and unequivocally false.
Once we peel the bark away from the unabridged version we can start to comprehend the real story.
Companies like Mosaic (formerly Timberwest and Island Timberlands that merged) has private timberlands from where they harvest logs. Log exports that come from private timberlands are the jurisdiction of the Federal government. Exporting logs is difficult. Exports can only occur if the company wanting to export can meet the “surplus” test, meaning that no domestic operations want to purchase the timber at domestic prices.
Jeff Bromley (USW Wood Council Chair) is leading our bargaining with CIPA.
Bromley explains, “the key here is that export prices abroad are much more lucrative than domestic prices so obviously companies like Mosaic prefer to export as much of their raw logs that they can get away with. Their problem is that CIPA Lumber and Teal Jones have been bidding but not agreeing on prices for Mosaics logs. It’s no coincidence that much of Mosaic’s logs were bid on by CIPA at domestic prices thereby preventing logs attracting a higher value in the export market. Mosaic had a serious problem.
To retaliate, Mosaic could choose to not sell the logs to CIPA but then they would be stuck with all the logs that don’t meet the surplus test. . Their answer: stop logging. Since November they have made a conscious decision to shut down their logging operations, in part to spite CIPA and wait until they can start to export some of their logs.
This is a lose, lose, lose situation. Mosaic loses. CIPA loses. And the worst part, the workers in the forest industry lose the most, including their livelihood and ability to support their families. The spat between Mosaic and CIPA is putting all of us at risk. If they were children, we would send them to their room without supper and make them apologize in the morning over breakfast. Unfortunately, they aren’t children, they are grown adults who are playing with your lives. It’s reprehensible and irresponsible of both CIPA and Mosaic.
USW Local 1-1937 on Vancouver Island represents approximately 650 employees who work for contract companies at Mosaic. As part of a collaborative process to improve the working relationship between the parties, Mosaic and the Union agreed in principle, to resolve over 30 outstanding grievances, improve operational flexibility to the benefit of both parties and agreed to Unionize two log sorting facilities that were subject to a number of grievances. This comprehensive agreement is not finalized and also not yet ratified by USW Local 1-1937 members.
On a separate issue, USW Local 1-1937 agreed to support Mosaic in their lobby effort for temporary relief (3 months) from certain log export restrictions, in an effort to try and “jump start” the coastal forest industry and get the 650 USW loggers back to work (most of which have been laid off since last November and are starting to have their benefit coverages cut off). It is also hoped that if Mosaic were to restart operations, it would add a significant volume to the log supply system, so other operators such as Paper Excellence, CIPA, Teal Jones and San group and others would also have access to the needed fibre. Of note and not widely known is that no company can export pulp logs and certain species of logs such as western red cedar and cypress, regardless of any exemption, even if one were approved by the federal government.
Make no mistake that the clear and unequivocal position of all USW Locals, including 1-1937 and Local 2009, is that we do not support raw log exports but we recognize log exports are needed in certain situations to make timber harvesting economical. If logging companies can’t sell some logs to foreign buyers at a handsome profit then many would not see enough profit in the domestic market to justify logging.
It is highly unlikely that the Federal government will agree to grant Mosaic even a temporary exemption. The Federal government will not sacrifice an entire industry across Canada for Mosaic and CIPA.
The BC Government has now weighed in and asked the two companies to work together to ensure the best interests of both companies are met. Mosaic’s history with the CIPA’s and non-union Teal Jones, among others of the coast forestry industry, has not always been amicable and it’s suspected that Mosaic, as a company, is now just reaping what they’ve sown over the last decade or so. “Seems to us that CIPA has shown no interest in resolving the dispute with Mosaic. They hate Mosaic almost as much they despise our union, said Al Bieksa, President, Local 2009. “We have already witnessed the unreasonableness of CIPA management at the bargaining table. It’s pretty clear to the bargaining committee that they would rather just try to blame someone else, in this case our union, for their inability to get along with their forest industry partners.”
In the meantime the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Range and Rural Development know that if they have to create policy to resolve this issue, not all parties will be happy. The Ministry would rather that Mosaic and CIPA resolve this issue of “fibre supply” and “log blocking” between themselves before having to step in. However that would involve CIPA and Mosaic having a reasonable approach. So far, these two over indulged ‘children’ are still not willing to get along.
So now you know the truth. Its really too bad that CIPA didn't remember the cry “unrestricted log exports will be a death blow to domestic forestry industry” when they supported the Liberal party as it stripped the forestry industry of regulations and opened up the door to massive log exports. This government has no intention of allowing any company to freely export volumes of logs at the expense of domestic manufacturing. in fact the government is actively working towards freeing up the “logjam” and increasing fibre supply to our domestic market.
Don’t let CIPA drag you into their mess with Mosaic, and don’t let them blame you, or your union. They created their mess, they need to clean it up. As for bargaining, we need to stand together, and remember that only the union has your interests at heart. https://www.usw2009.ca/blog/DE-BARKING-THE-RUMOUR-MILL.htm