Independent forestry contractors rally at B.C. legislature in Victoria

WatchA strike by forest workers on Vancouver Island is approaching its sixth month and some independent contractors say they are feeling the consequences.

Hundreds lined the steps of the B.C. legislature on Wednesday morning, hoping for an end to the Western Forest Products strike.

“We’re in a horrible crisis right now, it’s bad,” said Doug Dyson, who has been in the logging industry for 51 years. “People are losing their jobs, they’re losing their wives, they’re losing their houses and cars.”

The rallying workers have been off the job, caught in the middle of a long labour dispute between the United Steel Workers Union and WFP.

“I just want to see some answers, I want to see what their plan is for the future and where that leaves all of us,” said Spencer Pierce, a heavy-duty mechanic with Roc-Star Enterprises.

The strike began five months ago on July 1. While they’re not on the picket line, these independent contractors feel like they’re collateral damage.

“We’ve basically let go about 50 employees over the last five months or so and it’s hugely impacting our livelihood,” said Max Gerth, another employee of Roc-Star Enterprises in Port Alberni.

Now, the demonstrators say it’s time for the government to intervene so they can get back to work.

“The minister [and] our premier’s got tools in his toolbox to put everybody back to work and he could do it tomorrow if he really wanted to,” said Dyson.

Rally organizer Bill Coates was able to get a closed-door meeting with the minister of forests and minister of labour. Although Coates didn’t want to share what was said in the meeting, he said it went well.

“They weren’t stone-walling us, they were open and honest and they want to have it resolved the same we do,” Coates said.

However, not everyone backed Wednesday’s rally. The union posting on Facebook that the contractors “want binding mediation to force concessions.” But the contractors say they’re not there to take sides.

“We are not on one side or another, the side we are on is for workers, contractors, the union, the company, we need a resolution, we need to get people back to work,” said Steve Venus, owner of Blue Thunder Contracting from Campbell River.

Negotiations between the union and WFP will resume in Nanaimo tomorrow.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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