Unifor targets Resolute as eastern Canada bargaining ramps up

Unifor has selected Resolute Forest Products as the target company in a new round of "pattern bargaining," which the union hopes will set a precedent for all of eastern Canada's forestry industry, a Unifor spokesperson said Tuesday.

Resolute is target company, union hopes talks will set pattern for rest of eastern Canada's forestry industry

Resolute Forest Products, which has operations in Thunder Bay, has been selected by Unifor as the target company as the union prepares to start "pattern bargaining" in eastern Canada. (Josh Lynn/CBC)

Unifor has selected Resolute Forest Products as the target company in a new round of "pattern bargaining," which the union hopes will set a precedent for all of eastern Canada's forestry industry, a Unifor spokesperson said Tuesday.

Pattern bargaining involves the union working out  a deal on major, industry-wide issues such as wages, benefits and pension plans with a specific employer, and then the pattern is used as the union negotiates with other employers in the sector.

"It's not uncommon," said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor national president Jerry Dias. "It's happened in eastern Canada for many, many years."

Level playing field

"The advantage is it's time saving for the employers, it's also time-saving for us," he said. "It ensures everybody is on the same, level playing field. Whether or not your wages are exactly the same today, you're going to get the pattern agreement that everybody's wages are going to go up on the same level."

Doherty said while pattern bargaining will only focus on industry-wide issues, addressing local issues specific to individual mills is also built into the process.

Each Unifor local has until the end of March to reach a deal on issues such as scheduling or shift agreements.

"That'll form part of the formal memorandum of settlement," said Doherty.

Talks to start in April

Unifor chose Resolute as the target company for this round of talks for several reasons, said Doherty.

"We always try and make sure that a company has representation in at least two of the provinces that are represented in the eastern pattern, so that's ... all of Atlantic Canada, and then Ontario and Quebec," he said. 

"We like to ensure the company has products in the various lines — newsprint, pulp and paper, solid wood, sawmill."

Resolute, Doherty said, is also willing to be the target company for this round of talks; Resolute has been the target company previously, and it worked out well for both sides, he said.

Doherty said "main table" talks with Resolute will take place over about two weeks in April in Montreal, with the goal of reaching an agreement by April 31.  The majority of collective bargaining agreements for forestry sector workers in eastern Canada expire then, he said.