Frustrations high as Western Forest Products strike stretches on

Frustrations high as Western Forest Products strike stretches on
WatchFrustrations are high outside Western Forest Products mills Island wide as picket lines stretch on for a seventh week. More than 2,300 workers are affected and tensions are mounting as workers prepare to lose health benefits coverage if a deal isn't struck soon.

Jeff Walters looked out Wednesday over the Ladysmith log sort that he’s worked for years, feeling frustrated.

“You get worried about if it goes too long,” said the Western Forest Products (WFP) employee.

“How are you going to pay the bills you know.”

What stands in his way is the picket line that he and more than 2,300 coastal workers have been hung up in for the past seven weeks. The United Steelworkers and Western Forest Products fail to make any progress in resolving an ongoing strike action that’s at loggerheads over seniority and pensions.

“Doesn’t seem to be much negotiating,” said Walters.

“Or much getting done.”

“We don’t even know what’s going on,” said striking WFP worker Clayton Nakanura.

“Like we’re left in the dark.”

“Yeah I don’t know,” said striking WFP worker Brad Wilcox.

“It’s just a real weird strike this one,” said Wilcox.

Twenty-five-year-old Rob Vlaj said it’s threatening to delay his upcoming wedding plans.

“We might have to push it back,” said Vlaj.

“Who knows hopefully still have it next year but maybe not.”

With no end to this strike in sight, tensions are mounting.

In an email sent out Tuesday to striking workers, Western Forest products said while health benefits have been covered in June and July, they won’t be going forward, stating: “the Company has no obligation to provide benefits…this means that the benefits provider may suspend benefits beginning in September.”

It is a claim the union plans to fight. But is unlikely to help bridge the gap that right now is wide and preventing a resolution.

“There’s just no communication,” said striking WFP worker David Lenchuk.

“And you can’t resolve a situation without talking.”

Despite meeting with a mediator, no talks have taken place directly between the Union and Western Forest Products and there are no plans to, as thousands of Island workers’ livelihoods hang in the balance waiting to hear when they may return to work.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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