United Steelworkers union expects arbitrator to rule within days on whether Western Forest Products must pay severance to laid off Nanaimo, British Columbia, sawmill workers

LOS ANGELES , February 3, 2012 () – A ruling is expected within days on whether Western Forest Products (WFP) will be required to pay severance to hundreds of workers laid off from its two sawmills in Nanaimo, according to a report by the Daily News.

Labor arbitrator David McPhillips indicated before Christmas that he should be in a position to make a ruling on the case by around the end of January, said Darrel Wong, president of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937.

Wong, whose local represents the laid off workers, told union members the decision should be made soon, although McPhillips gave no firm date.

The union began court action against WFP last year, accusing the company of reopening the mills with skeleton crews in 2010 to avoid paying severance packages, after closing the mills for almost two years. Under the workers' collective agreement, the company must pay severance if the mills remain closed for two years, the union said.

Two days of arbitration were held in Nanaimo and Vancouver last year with McPhillips, union and company officials.

WFP has previously denied the union's claims, saying that its actions were based on market conditions.

Wong said that, if McPhillips rules in the union's favor, a significant number of workers will be entitled to severance pay. He noted that WFP has the right to appeal if the union wins.

The primary source of this article is the Daily News, Nanaimo, British Columbia, on Feb. 1, 2012.

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