Tuesday September 02, 2014

Union wins pay for workers

A forest union leader hailed a ruling Friday that found a company owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance to workers who lost jobs in Valemount three years ago.

Marty Gibbons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1-417, said the decision by a B.C. Labour Relations Board arbitrator is a victory for worker rights.

Valemount Forest Products shut down the mill nearly three years ago, laying off 125 workers. Owner Northwest Specialty Products sold the mill to a private owner but it never reopened.

When 24 months expired the new owner said it did not owe severance to workers because rights expired.

"Basically they waited until everyone except about 10 workers fell off severance (provisions) and they argued they only had to pay severance to those 10."

But Gibbons said the arbitrator backed the union's contention that workers were due severance pay, even though the mill changed hands and never reopened.

"It means 125 people will receive 10 days pay for every year's service," Gibbons said.

He acknowledged very few of the workers remained in the Central Interior community because there are family-supporting jobs.

Gibbons said the decision can be appealed but he is confident it will stand.

"This took six months to come out. The arbitrator has really done his homework. We don't believe there's grounds for appeal."

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