Employees of I.G. Machine & Fibers near Ashcroft have been locked out since July 12, and on Friday, Aug. 13 members of United Steelworkers Union 1-417 showed their support by cooking and serving a barbecue lunch for the workers and their families at the Heritage Park in Ashcroft.
In addition to the lunch, the employees were provided with gift certificates for Safety Mart. Lois Rugg, president of the Kamloops and District Labour Council, was there with $350-worth of certificates, provided by the KDLC, CUPE Local 4879, and the Health Sciences Association.
“It’s a gesture of solidarity and support,” said Rugg.
The approximately 40 workers at I.G. Fibers were served with a lockout notice on July 5, and locked out on July 12. An employee described negotiation talks as “non-existent”, and said that the employer has not come back to the table.
“People are frustrated,” he said. “We thought it would be a couple of weeks at most.
“Three people have already quit, and others are applying for jobs because we can’t wait forever, but we’re not willing to take a crap contract in order to go back.”
I.G. put forward a “best and final” offer in April, after more than a year of negotiations, which the union turned down twice. Negotiations resumed in mid-June, with the union then taking a strike vote.
The employees also have a case before the Labour Relations Board, alleging that people are still working at the facility, which the company denies.
“They’re still hauling product,” said the employee. “We weren’t full [when the lockout started], and it doesn’t take that long to deplete.”
The plant near Barnes Lake was part of an evacuation order due to the Tremont Creek wildfire, but that order was rescinded to an alert on July 26. Rock is crushed and coloured at the site, then shipped to other divisions to create roofing shingles.