Safety, payroll and staffing among the major concerns

By Don Bodger from Chemaninus Valley Courier

The Public and Private Workers of Canada Local 2 is bringing attention to issues at the Paper Excellence Canada Catalyst Crofton mill it says have plagued the membership for quite some time.

An information picket tent was set up at the top of the mill entrance road Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’re hitting every crew as they come in the mill and we’re handing out these information flyers to everyone coming into the mill,” explained Geoff Dawe, interim president of the local.

The information flyer highlights several areas of concern to the union, including safety, payroll, a lack of manning and replacing the workforce.

With the safety issue alone, Dawe said there has been three fires at the mill in the last two weeks.

Among other things, the union notes there are no safety meetings in some departments and on some crews; and regular clean-up is not being performed to prevent fires.

“A lot of the members are concerned about the lack of preventative maintenance,” Dawe added.

Several union members claim they are also not being paid properly and the onus is placed on employees to identify and correct their pay.

The union’s staffing concerns include: not replacing employees who have left for a variety of reasons and an insufficient relief structure to accommodate members with time off.

“Lack of manning puts additional stress on members, having vacation denied, working excessive hours and exacerbating safety concerns,” noted a media statement issued through office administrator Sherri Beam.

In terms of replacing the workforce, the union says there is a continued reliance on contractors and the union is not being notified of potential work when contractors have been utilized.

The executive contends it has reached a stalemate with current management in determining a path forward.

“We’re just trying to put pressure on and stand up for our rights within the collective agreement,” said Dawe.

He stressed the mood within the membership compelled the union to press some issues for a resolution.

“Guys are very upset,” said Dawe.

The latest contract between the union and the company expired May 1, but both sides have been moving forward with the same terms and conditions until a new agreement is reached.

Dawe stressed the information picket is simply to bring matters of concern to the forefront at the moment.

“This is not a strike. Just know your union is working hard on the issues.”

No dates are pending for any negotiation sessions and the company has not responded to a request for comment.

Union members are being told to continue reporting for work, as usual, and doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.

“Our hope is we bring enough attention, they start changing their work practice,” said Dawe. “I don’t want to say they’re not taking it seriously. Whoever needs to hear this message is hopefully going to hear it.”

PPWC Local 2 maintained in the media statement it “takes these issues seriously and will be taking the necessary steps to try to resolve them. We feel like these concerns are negatively affecting our basic quality of life.”

The goal is to “try to continue to work through these issues in the hope of achieving reasonable working conditions for the membership.”

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