EDMONTON - Workers at the Georgia-Pacific Wallboard plant in Northeast Edmonton are back at work today after voting to accept a new collective agreement which offers pay increases and no concessions or job losses. The deal comes after a six and a half month strike by members of Boilermakers Union Local D-513.
"The company retreated on all of its major concession demands," said Jeff Wood, President of Local D-513.
"This represents an important victory not only for the workers at Georgia-Pacific, but it is also an important symbolic victory for all workers," said Les Steel, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "A small group of 50 workers took on a huge American corporation with U.S.-style bargaining tactics and won. Their solidarity and sense of fairness saw them through."
Georgia-Pacific forced the strike last December by locking workers out and demanding a series of concessions, which would have led to longer lay-off periods for workers and significant reductions in overtime pay and health benefits.
There were no major concessions in the deal that was accepted in a membership vote last week. The deal included wage increases and improvements to some benefits. "The workers came out of this with a fair deal and they didn't have to take any concessions. The company backed off," said Wood.
Georgia-Pacific is the largest building products manufacturer in North America. Based in Atlanta, they brought their style of management to Edmonton when they bought the plant a couple years ago. Throughout the strike, they refused to bargain directly and insisted their position was non-negotiable. "The workers proved them wrong," said Steel.
In addition to defeating the concession demands, the union successfully negotiated job protection and solid severance arrangements. It was revealed during negotiations that the
company plans to open a new "super-plant" three years from now. It will be located either in southern B.C. or southern Alberta. The union won a guarantee of union certification at the new plant as well as first-pick at jobs at the new plant.
"I believe the company's real agenda in this strike was to bust the union and set up a new non-union super-plant. The company forgot that Alberta workers are not defeated that easily," said Steel. "The Boilermakers members stood firm and the company's agenda failed."
"We said all along we just wanted to get back to work. Now we are back and we are very happy about it. We won an important victory," said Wood.
"I think employers should take note of this settlement. It is a message to employers that Alberta workers will defend our rights to the very end," concluded Steel.
For more information call:
Jeff Wood, President, Boilermakers Local D-513:
945-9328 (Cell - before 2 pm) or 462-7254 (Home - for messages)
Les Steel, AFL Secretary-Treasurer:
483-3021 (W) or 499-4135 (Cell)