Raw logs are loaded onto a logging ship from a log sort down the Alberni Inlet in March 2019. SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News

Steelworkers, Mosaic strike deal they hope can kickstart idled Vancouver Island logging operations

Union, forest firm reach tentative deal to unionize shipping facilities, add regional flexibility

One of Vancouver Island’s biggest timber firms and its largest forestry union have struck a deal they hope can restart Mosaic Forest Management operations throughout the Island.

United Steelworkers (USW, Local 1-1937) and Mosaic Forest Management have reached agreements-in-principle designed to bring increased collaboration, flexibility and certainty for workers and Mosaic across its South Island and Northwest Bay operations.

The union and company jointly announced on May 12 the pending unionization of Mosaic’s two shipping facilities at Island Terminals (Duke Point) and South Island Logistics facility (Crofton), and a renewed collective agreement at the Nanoose-based Northwest Bay Operation that will run from 2020 to 2025.

The agreements will allow Mosaic the flexibility to move contractors, equipment and logs across the company’s South Island operations (from Sooke in the south to Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni on central Vancouver Island.

READ: B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

With the agreements, USW 1-1937 is also asking for “temporary relief” on federal log export policy for private land, said Brian Butler, president of USW 1-1937.

“Working together with Mosaic on unionizing the shipping facilities also reflects our collective desire for policies that support access to both international and domestic log markets,” Butler said, adding that allowing log exports for private landowners will “kickstart the Coastal forest sector.”

Domenico Iannidinardo, chief forester for Mosaic, said the union contracts would be for five years, and they are asking for six months’ relief on raw log export policies, which “would allow us to start up operations. We could have more certainty with a longer temporary period, but six months is workable.”

Iannidinardo said Mosaic must keep their international customers happy if they are to stay in business. “We need to have that international premium to make our books balance overall.”

Both Butler and Mosaic president and CEO Jeff Zweig touted stability for workers as another positive to ratifying the agreements.

“This agreement will certainly help to create the conditions for Mosaic to restart production,” Zweig added.

READ: Mosaic Forest Management announces forestry shutdown

The coastal forestry industry was already in the midst of an eight-month strike with Western Forest Products when Mosaic announced in late November 2019 an early winter shutdown that impacted a further 2,000 forestry workers across coastal B.C. That curtailment was extended on March 10, 2020.

“Poor market conditions have persisted longer than anticipated and have been exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus on global supply chains,” Mosaic president and CEO Jeff Zweig said in a statement.

Signing this contract could see the curtailment end within a month, Iannidinardo said.

Union members must still ratify the agreement-in-principle with Mosaic.

“These are tough times and we have heard our members loud and clear. We have worked extremely hard with Mosaic to deliver a set of mutually beneficial changes to respond to our members’ needs and address legacy issues, all of which are subject to ratification by our members,” said Richard Arnason, second vice-president of USW Local 1-1937.

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