After nearly four months on the picket line, thousands of forestry workers on the British Colombia (BC) coast, Canada, went back to work by early November (see background to strike article on CWI site, 18th October 2007).
Although the vote for a deal varied in local branches, overall it was passed by just 51%, reflecting the deep dissatisfaction that exists among many of the workers over it.
A wage increase of between 2% - 3% was won, as well as some gains in relation to their fight on shift work and severance pay which were the main issues of the strike.
The strong Canadian dollar against the US dollar has been blamed as to why the strike was `bad timing`
A forestry industry spokesman was quoted as saying;
"At $1.07 (at the time of writing the value of the Can $ to the US $) nobody is making any money and of course it is exacerbated by the issues around asset-based mortgages that are coming due which has put a big damper on housing starts,"
This is a pathetic excuse that the United Steel Workers Union (USW) should campaign against. There is never a `good` time to strike for workers, when you have a family, mortgage etc relying on your wages...etc. But the conditions for the forestry workers had got so bad and needed to be changed. Many workers knew there was no option but to take a stand and strike.
If the bosses of the multi-million dollar forestry industry want to plead poverty, the books of the companies should be opened for all to see. Huge profits and fat wage cheques are a sure bet on what would be found.
The stand the BC Coastal forestry workers took for nearly four months was an inspiration and show of strength that many other sections of workers in local communities throughout BC and beyond were touched by.
The action could have been spread and escalated, if the USW had developed a fighting strategy to do so but the leaders of the union did not take this action. The union did provide good fighting talk and action, but without taking it the next step forward it allowed the forestry companies to come up with a soft deal that many workers felt they had no choice but to except.
Therefore the fight for safer working conditions and for a halt on other cuts needs to go on. This recent strike shows a glimpse of what is possible when workers stand together in solidarity. It also shows the urgent need for the building of democratic fighting unions and for a new mass workers’ party to struggle against dangerous working conditions, poor pay, and exploitation, and to fight for a socialist society, where the needs for all, not just the few, are met.