B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains said Wednesday afternoon that he plans to meet with both United Steelworkers Union and Western Forest Products following the breakdown in talks Tuesday.
“I am disappointed to learn that talks for a renewal contract have broken off between Western Forest Products (WFP) and United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1-1937,” said Bains.
“I have arranged to immediately meet with representatives of both parties to discuss how to move forward and find a solution that helps the parties reach an agreement that supports sustainable forestry jobs in coastal communities.”
On the picket lines on Wednesday, workers say they are frustrated but remain determined.
“We’re just frustrated,” said Troy Smith in a picket shack south of Sayward.
“I’ve got a wife and two kids and I’ve got lots of friends that are married with kids and mortgages and Christmas is just around the corner.”
In Port McNeill, disappointment is matched by defiance.
“We’re willing to be in this for the long haul.” said Don Riehl.” Like they said in Campbell River, we’re here one day longer. We can play horseshoes as long as they want to sit there and not get to the bargaining table.”
When asked what it would take to get the union back to the bargaining table striking worker Raymond Abdai said, “Well it’s going to take Western Forest Products to understand that we’re dug in like Alabama ticks and we’re not going anywhere.”
Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom says families are suffering more and more every day.
“There was real hope this time that they were going to reach a resolution. It’s just affecting me deeply and is giving me such resolve to continue to bring attention to this. You know those negotiators and Premier Horgan, they need to see that person, that mother crying because she can’t provide for her family.”
The union says alternate shift schedules is one of its main outstanding issues and that contracting out is still a main issue for WFP.
Read Bains full statement below:
“I am disappointed to learn that talks for a renewal contract have broken off between Western Forest Products and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937. I appreciate that they spent the last couple of days in talks with the assistance of mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers.
I have arranged to immediately meet with representatives of both parties to discuss how to move forward and find a solution that helps the parties reach an agreement that supports sustainable forestry jobs in coastal communities.
This has been a long and difficult dispute that has had an impact on everyone in the community — especially forestry workers and their families.
I will be clear to both parties that this dispute is placing an unacceptable burden on coastal forestry communities, and I will strongly recommend to both that they return to the table and get a deal done.
We know that the best collective agreements come through negotiations at the bargaining table. We need this agreement settled so that everyone involved can get back to work, supporting the forest sector and forestry jobs in British Columbia.”