United Steelworkers Local 1-2017 have pulled all job action at northern mills as they take a wait and see approach with talks taking place next week in Kelowna.

The United Steelworkers bargaining committee and the IFLRA representing southern interior forestry employers said they have agreed to mediation through the BC Labour Relations Board following the inability to agree to a new collective agreement after the groups fourth bargaining session ended last week.

“Quite a few of the bargaining people that sit at the table in CONIFER are at the table at the IFLRA so with them going to mediation we’re kind of doing a goodwill gesture saying that we’re going to take a wait and see approach,” USW 1-2017 First Vice President, Paul French said.

“We’ve also pulled all our job action for the time being.”

Talks are scheduled for Nov. 14, 15, and 16.

“I won’t be there but the USW 1-2017 President will be sitting at the table,” French adds.

“Its a wait and see. Hopefully, they can get to an agreement down there and if they get an agreement there then, of course, we’ll be anticipating good results up here.”

“I’m quite hopeful. I don’t believe we’re miles apart. The issue is still the same; if they can’t give us stuff that’s one thing but when they’re trying to take stuff away, we just can’t accept concessions.”

A 72-hour strike notice was issued to the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA) on Oct. 31 while CONIFER company members including Tolko’s Quest Wood and Soda Creek Division and West Fraser’s planer operation in Williams Lake have been in a legal strike position since Oct. 6.

“Despite reporting record profits in the third quarter of 2018, Canfor has decided to engage in rotating layoffs at their BC operations angering USW members in what looks more like a bargaining tactic than a reflection of markets,” USW Local 1-405 said in a bargaining bulletin.

“Forestry employers across the province have expressed concerns regarding high stumpage costs. Based on last quarter’s lower lumber prices, that rate is expected to decrease accordingly beginning January of 2019.”

Tolko announced the immediate curtailment of Quest Wood on Oct. 12 due to ‘high log costs and poor market conditions.’