Employees impacted by WFP strike find work at unusual Errington site

WatchAs the Western Forest Products strike drags on, a work project near Errington is helping ease the pains for some of those impacted.

Les Pile was relieved to be getting back to work on Thursday.

The forestry contractor and father of three girls said he has seen a 40 per cent drop in business as the Western Forest Products (WFP) strike drags on and 3,000 workers remain behind picket lines.

“Without this, I’d be off today and tomorrow,” said Les Pile who owns his own heavy truck operation, Hopper Ventures Inc.

“This has got me two full days work.”

The Port Alberni resident has been hired for a unique project happening on an 80-acre lot in Errington.

It’s a forestry salvage operation, ensuring not a bit of waste goes to waste when people need work and wood chip supply is low.

“It’s cool,” said Pile.

“Different, definitely different. It’s putting people to work, yeah,” said Brad Jones of DBL Disposal Services.

Towering wood piles from land clearing were going to be burned, but with the WFP strike impacting hog fuel supply to Port Alberni’s Catalyst paper mill, the landowner offered up them up to power Catalyst’s mill.

Now Catalyst is paying for the work project that’s benefiting out-of-work truckers who are hauling the chips and logs recovered from it.

“When a big player like Western goes down the trickle-down effect is pretty huge,” said Jones.

“The longer it drags on the more people it affects.”

Jones, who is also working on-site, said he knows owner/operators personally who haven’t been able to keep up with loans during the strike and have lost their rigs. He said employing up to 10 people on this job will help them ride out the strike.

“It’s not just one person or the 3000 workers or whatever, there’s a huge trickle-down effect,” said Jones.

“The Island is one big economy that works together.”

The salvage and chipping operation is expected to last six weeks, long enough to see workers like Les Pile and their families through Christmas, and they hope through the end of the strike.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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