Canada USW, forest companies reach stalemate in union negotiations
Over the weekend, nearly 6,500 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union’s Wood Council in British Columbia went on strike, following a stalemate in negotiations with 31 member companies of Forest Industrial Relations [FIR], a bargaining group; Island Timberlands, a private forestry company; and timber company International Forest Products (InterFor).
The British Columbia coastal region accounts for 12 percent of total British Columbian softwood lumber production and 6 percent of total Canadian production, according to RISI (Resource Information Systems).
The USW issued a 72-hour strike warning that expired on July 21. InterFor workers joined the strike on Saturday.
“This strike is about stopping the race to the bottom that all forest workers are facing,” said Steve Hunt, USW Western Canada director.
Among the core issues argued by the USW are requests for severance for all workers affected by permanent mill closures — including employees who were laid off during downtime, prior to the permanent closure of the mill. The union also is requesting more input in making employee shift schedules and a halt to companies’ use of contracted, non-union employees to participate in union negotiations.
Several British Columbia-based forest products companies are affected by the strike, including West Fraser, one of North America’s largest lumber producers.
FIR, which represents West Fraser, Western Forest Products and 29 other large lumber producers, has argued conditions are difficult across the industry, and further concessions would put a further dent in an already difficult market.
Terry Lineker, CEO of FIR, said the market pressures faced by forest products companies mean employers must remain competitive or risk a position that “will severely damage the industry.”
FIR has proposed a wage increase of 2 percent effective June 15 of this year, and an additional 3 percent on June 15, 2008. The bargaining group also offered gain sharing “if FIR companies recover from the current downturn,” and agreed to some improvements in shift scheduling, according to a statement from FIR.
PPG to acquire Barloworld Coatings Australia
The Australian subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based PPG will acquire Barloworld Coatings Australia, the architectural paint unit of South Africa-based Barloworld Coatings. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Barloworld is a leading manufacturer of architectural and decorative paints in Australia, with brands including Taubmans, Bristol and White Knight. The company also operates production facilities in Villawood, New South Wales; and Glen Waverly, Victoria.
Barloworld’s plant in Glen Waverley will not be acquired by PPG but will continue to manufacture Barloworld brand products for PPG until production and distribution activities are transferred to other locations, PPG said in a statement.
Barloworld also distributes products through 85 company-owned stores, a network of distributors and numerous independent retailers. The paints are also sold through Bunnings, one of Australia’s largest home improvement retailers.
“We are continuing to accelerate our profitable growth in coatings by making strategic acquisitions,” said J. Rich Alexander, senior vp-coatings for PPG. “The Barloworld coatings brands are well-respected in Australia. By acquiring Barloworld’s Australian coatings business, we’ll be well-positioned to be the leading coatings manufacturer operating in all market segments and channels in Australia.”
In 2006, PPG acquired Protec, an Adelaide, Australia-based manufacturer and distributor of automotive refinish coatings and light industrial and high-performance coatings. Also in 2006, PPG acquired the Performance Coatings and Finishes business of Ameron International of Pasadena, Calif., which also has operations in Australia and New Zealand.
British Columbia forestry workers go on strike
Around 6,500 members of Canada’s Wood Council of the United Steelworkers union (USW) have gone on strike in British Columbia.
The strike began at midnight on Friday, idling more than 30 forest companies, according to news reports.
At issue is a request by the USW to restrict wood product companies’ abilities to schedule some working shifts up to 12 hours long. Additionally, the union is arguing for better severance pay for partial mill closures.
“The industry is badly fragmented and is unable to reach common ground with our union on the fundamental issues affecting our members,” said Steve Hunt, director of USW Western Canada.
The union is striking against several companies, many represented by the bargaining group Forest Industrial Relations (FIR). Around 4,500 unionized workers are employed by FIR’s client companies.
“We have bargained in good faith, and the union has been effective in achieving many of its goals,” said Terry Lineker, president and CEO of FIR. “However, given the market pressures we face, we will not offer more because any further decline in our competitive position will severely damage the industry.”
FIR members include West Fraser Mills and Western Forest Products.