Bill Routley

Bill Routley

WFP the Grinch who stole Christmas

It makes me really sad that you don’t understand the labour relations side of the business.

WFP the Grinch who stole Christmas

Re: USW/WFP strike, who is the Grinch?

Having retired from B.C. politics and four decades of work in the B.C. forest industry on Vancouver Island (most of it representing forest workers as an elected union representative) I have learned a lot about dealing with the diverse labour relations attitudes and styles within the B.C. forest industry. Many of those employers have come and gone; companies like BCFP, Doman Forest Products, MacMillan Bloedel (MB), Pacific Forest Products, Weyerhaeuser, Timber West and Island Timberlands to name a few of the big ones.

Some of those I worked with had fairly good labour relations with the union. One such example was MB. At one of their operations (MB Chemainus Sawmill), they had the team system which recognized the workers as vital and important partners in managing the operation. It created an environment where the workers cared about the business as they felt they were an important part of it. It was a very progressive mill in terms of labour relations, as compared to most employers who sadly had adopted the old top-down, my way or the highway attitude for labour relations, where employees were treated as just a number like Western Forest Products (WFP) operates today.

I have always wondered as a workers’ representative, why employers would want to mistreat the people who they need and rely on to make critical decisions, produce their product and ultimately make their money? Really, why would they think that it was a better strategy to create an environment where workers hate to go to work, rather than treating them with the dignity and respect that they would want for themselves?

Many forest workers face serious risks and dangerous hard work every day in order to make their employers money. In return, all that workers have ever asked is that they have a safe and healthy workplace, a fair wage and benefit package and rights and dignity on the job. It’s not too much to ask for someone who dedicates their working lives to the industry.

Recently I have had an experience which moved me to write this letter. I was talking with some of the forest workers on strike at the WFP Chemainus Mill, the same mill that I had come to look up to as having the most progressive management attitudes to workers that I had ever seen or experienced here in B.C. The Chemainus Mill was one of the crown jewels of all the MacMillan Bloedel operations in B.C., setting records in safety, production and profitability.

Sadly, now when visiting the workers on the picket line, I felt and heard their visceral anger at WFP’s treatment, not just now, but long before the strike began. It tells me volumes as to why this company is behind picket lines.

Some workers expressed their hatred for the CEO and company, which very much surprised me. I said, “really, that’s a strong word?”. How could the same employees who I once saw as very progressive, who worked together with management to help make the Chemainus Mill one of the most profitable mills in B.C., now become the opposite of the happy workers I once knew?

It was really heartbreaking to me to see this drastic change in the workers, who were quick to give me names of former management who had quit the company, leaving in disgust after being told to implement harsh working conditions, such as installing video spy cameras everywhere, developing mean spirited policies to punish employees instead of helping employees who have personal or family issues and in imposing long, unsafe and family life-altering shift schedules.

I ask the CEO of Western Forest Products, is this really the legacy you want to leave; taking the Chemainus Mill from one of the most profitable, productive and best places to work in B.C. and making it a place where the workers are this angry with your working conditions, policies and disrespect?

Maybe you could tell us just how your management style will make your company money long-term when you’re hurting the workers and their families? What you are doing will not work to develop a happy, productive, profitable workplace, not now, not ever! Possibly that is not your goal?

Truly, in 2019, you are the Grinch who stole Christmas from your employees and the coastal communities they work in.

I would not want to be a shareholder with what you have created. It makes me really sad that you don’t understand the labour relations side of the business. These are real people; you have an obligation to make them safe and to rely on them to make your business run; to make your company profitable.

Treating your workers with such disdain, treating them as numbers, will only result in just the opposite of what you should want to achieve.

My advice to you is, think about how you could make this labour relations mess you created into a win-win situation by first acknowledging that a happy worker is a safe and productive worker, then getting back to the bargaining table and work with their elected representatives for solutions.

When you do that instead of attacking workers’ rights, you stand a far better chance to find a partner who will work with you, rather than one forced to take the ultimate step of withdrawing their services. Continuing to do what you are doing isn’t working.

Bill Routley

Retired Cowichn Valley MLA

Former IWA/USW president

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Highway 14 (Sooke Road) is closed between Impala Road and Humpback Road following a “major” police incident, according to DriveBC. (Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATED: Major crimes unit takes over after police incident closes Highway 14 through Sooke

Incident occurred Friday night, detour made available early Saturday

Community members Ed Hutchinson, left, Dave Noren, and Pat Graham, president of The Ladies Guild, stand before the new book house outside the Church of the Advent in Colwood. The tiny library was built as a result of the annual Church of the Advent book sale being cancelled due to COVID-19. (Submitted/Joan Hoffman)
Colwood church builds little library

Church of Advent annual book sale cancelled due to health restrictions

To each their own pipe. The new sewer main during staging in James Bay before it was installed in 2018, to convey waste to the McLoughlin Point treatment facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
‘End in sight,’ for Victoria’s annual sewage overflows

Wastewater projects underway should end sewage overflows

(Courtesy Very Good Butchers)
Very Good Butchers brand adds cheese to its platter

The Cultured Nut products to be rebranded under Very Good Cheese banner

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read