Steelworkers ratify new five-year deal

The United Steelworkers have ratified a five-year deal with Interior Forests Labour Relations Association member companies.

The United Steelworkers union announced Friday that it has ratified a five-year deal with Interior Forests Labour Relations Association member companies in the B.C. Southern Interior.

Members of USW Locals 1-405 Cranbrook, 1-417 Kamloops and 1-423 Kelowna voted in favour of the agreement by a majority of 66 per cent.

According to the union, the five-year agreement provides significant pay enhancements for Tradesman, who will see a 23 per cent wage increase over the agreement’s term.

“It’s based on the same pattern that we negotiated with Canfor,” said Doug Singer, USW Local 1-405 president.

The deal also doubles living out allowances for members in apprenticeships to $40 a day or $280 a week, doubles mileage to 50 cents a kilometre to attend school and those attending school outside of their community for more than six weeks will qualify for a second round trip.

“It was a balancing act this round of negotiations,” Singer said. “We had to balance trying to negotiate some good increases in wages for all of our members plus get some trades adjustments so we can maintain and retain trades, and at the same time address some major issues with the pension plan. So I think we struck a very good balance.”

The deal also includes wage increases of 13 per cent and $3,400 cash payments over the term of the agreement and improves health and welfare benefits — which include lifetime limits for EHB that increase from $60,000 to $300,000 over the term agreement. Plan C orthodontic coverage increases to a maximum $4,000 with white fillings now covered. Vision care now includes laser eye surgery and eye exams limits increase to $400 in a 24 month period.

“We think we’ve struck a really good collective agreement for our members,”Singer said.

The agreement also includes better language to ensure employee rights are not compromised relative to the use of Chargehands, a 50 cent per hour ticket premium for log scalers, a carpenter’s rate that rises to meet the level of other tradesman and a two level increase for forestry and engineering technicians,