Northern Steelworkers set agenda for change   April 3rd 2012

Delegates, representing sawmills and mines across the north gathered this weekend in Prince George at the annual meeting of the United Steelworkers Local 1-424 where they heard a strong message that change was needed in British Columbia.

USW president Frank Everitt told delegates that it was time for a change in British Columbia and that change meant electing a government that would represent working people and help build a vibrant forest industry again.

He also warned delegates that the Liberal government attack on the teachers was only the first round of many battles to come for workers in British Columbia.

“The fight is not only with teachers, they are only the first, the second will be healthcare workers and next will be the government workers and make no mistake about it, they are coming for you after that,” he said as he pointed to the crowd. “If the Liberals get another mandate then goodbye Charlie, so lets do it (defeat the Liberals).”

Sherry Ogasawara, Sarbjit (Bobby) Deepak, and Frank Everitt, President USW Local 1-424 and Prince George City Councilor

USW Wood Council President Bob Matters told the convention that the Liberal government had made terrible choices during the last decade, choices that put the interests of large corporations ahead of working people in every community.

He told delegates that mills are shutting down and losing work because of the lack of logs while the government continues to allow exports. Most recently the government’s own export review board recommended that logs be sold to a local sawmill in Vancouver but the government overruled them and sent the logs to China.

“The government had a choice of siding with workers and their communities or siding with large corporations and workers in China,” he said. “They continue to make the wrong choices.”

He said the government has no strategy for rebuilding the forestry stock in British Columbia and has allowed mill after mill to close without any review process. “There is no doubt about it, this government has only one policy and that is to kill jobs.”

In recent years the Chinese market has begun to buy finished lumber from British Columbia but Matters pointed out that every time they ship a load of logs to China, its in direct competition with saw mills in the interior of British Columbia.

B.C. Federation of  Labour President Jim Sinclair thanked the Local for the incredible job they have done supporting the workers and people of Burns Lake in the wake of the explosion that killed two workers, left dozens injured and destroyed the mill where more than 200 worked.

In particular he complimented courage of the workers on the night shift when the mill exploded. He said those workers were blown out of the mill by the explosion but went back inside to rescue their co-workers.

“These are the kind of heroes that makes us all proud,”  he said.

Sinclair also talked about Liberal economic policies. He said they have resulted in billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations but did not result in the growth of jobs in the province. He said that, in fact, BC has seen a decline in jobs in major sectors like forestry. “There has been a decline of more than 25,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector.”

“The tax cut strategy has been a dismal failure,” Sinclair said. “We lost jobs, we cut healthcare and education, we failed to take care of seniors and the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to grow and grow.”

Shown in the photo above are:
Sherry Ogasawara, BCGEU member seeking NDP nomination in Prince George Valemount.
Sarbjit (Bobby) Deepak – Labour lawyer seeking NDP nomination in Prince George-Mackenzie.
Frank Everitt – President USW Local 1-424 and Prince George City Councilor.


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