Art Poirier has worked in forestry for nearly four decades and has been through his share of strikes.
Now he’s on the picket line once again.
“I’ve been here going on 40 years and I’ve seen a lot, seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and it’s pretty ugly here right now,” said Poirier.
He and about 2,600 other members of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 are striking against Western Forest Products over the potential loss of pensions, seniority rights, and long-term disability benefits, among other things.
Poirier, who drives a logging truck is nearing retirement and says he’s worried about his pension.
“They want us to take a hit on our pensions and really, they’re going for the jugular there,” he added.
Poirier says his understanding is that the company wants to switch to an RRSP retirement plan but the company tells CHEK News the new program would be for prospective new employees only while current workers could keep what they have or switch to the new plan.
“Current employees would ultimately be given the choice to participate in the plan that best suits their individual needs,” said Western Forest Products Vice President of Corporate Affairs Susan Dolinkski.
It appears the only way the two sides will get back to the table is with a mediator and the union says it has suggested well-known mediator Vince Ready but that the company said no.
“Vince Ready is a really established arbitrator that has done several years on the forest industry, a lot of arbitration so he is the perfect guy to be sitting at the mediation table,” said United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 business agent Shelley Siemens.
Western says the mediator will ultimately be chosen by the Labour Relations Board.
“It’s typical in this process for both parties to express preferences regarding the appointment of a mediator and this in no way should be interpreted as Western refusing mediation,” said Dolinski.
No timeline was given for when a mediator might be chosen.