Frustration grows as forestry strike hits week 17

WatchWatch Line: The stalemate continues after mediated talks between the United Steel Workers Union and Western Forest Products broke down over the weekend.

Frustration is setting in for nearly 3,000 forestry workers who have been on strike against Western Forest Products since July 1.

“We’ve got nowhere in three-and-a-half months,” said striking worker Martin Scholte. “It’s week 17, kind of stretching on. We’re not getting anywhere, the company doesn’t want to cooperate or do anything or talk or so we’re just sort of biding our time.”

“They can give themselves a raise and yet we have to fight tooth and nail to get a 3% raise,” added Derek Greveling.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union and Western Forest Products met for four days of talks last week but they broke off Sunday. The union blames management for not compromising on any issues, even after the union offered concessions.

In a statement to members, USW President Brian Butler said “The ball is clearly in WFP’s court as they refused to make any changes to their proposal while the local union made significant moves. This isn’t something you do in bargaining if you truly want to make progress in getting an agreement.”

Workers say they are worried about several items.

“My pension,” said Scholte. “I mean I’m close to retirement here and I don’t need them dicking around with my pension and screwing it over.”

“Our holiday pay,” added Greveling. “They want to reduce our holidays, like I get seven weeks and they want to reduce that down to five and that’s a loss of $2,000 for me.”

Younger workers are feeling it the most like Jacob Bos who has three kids and is going to move away for another job.

“My hands are tied kind of right?” he said. “So time to make a move. Thanks for the apprenticeship and thanks for the ticket, but peace out.”

In a response from the company, a spokesperson says “Western believes the best place for these discussions to occur is at the bargaining table and we remain available for mediation later this week.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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