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WFP cutting benefits for striking workers, USW disputes claim

Health benefits for striking union members will be cut off by September 1st.

At least, that’s what Western Forest Products said in a memo released to employees this week. 

But USW 1-1937 president Brian Butler says the union disputes the claim that WFP can just cut off employee benefits while they’re on strike. 

He says WFP received inaccurate information from the industry side of the joint USW-Coastal Forest Industry Health & Welfare Plan. The plan is overseen by a board consisting of union and industry members.

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Butler says the union side of the board didn’t even have a say. 

“The union trustees have asked for an immediate meeting of the trustees because the memo that went out was not authorized by the union side of the trustees,” Butler said. 

He adds they have asked for the letter to be rescinded, not just from WFP but other employers who may have received the memo. 

He says they’ve asked for a meeting immediately. 

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“It’s not that far from September and we want to be clear that benefits need to be in place and if Western doesn’t pay the benefits, then the Health & Welfare Plan should be going after (Western) legally to have them pay.”

He says it’s frustrating because the Board of Trustees govern the plan but one whole side wasn’t consulted. 

Union members have been on strike for over a month. Mediation is moving slowly according to Butler. He says both parties still have the same positions that they tabled back in April. 

“No bargaining had really happened where the parties had reduced their positions. So we’re still dealing with the full agenda for both parties, which takes a little more time to deal with what the core issues are,” Butler said. 

“Western Forest Products is the biggest impediment to progress in this process… the company has not actually dealt with a single issue on our proposal so progress is slow.” 

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