Mediation talks to resume Thursday in Nanaimo in Western Forest Products dispute

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WatchMediated negotiations between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Union are set to start up again on Thursday. This, as independent contractors plan to rally at the BC Legislature on Wednesday.

The two sides in the Western Forest Products’ labour dispute will meet again Thursday in mediation.

United Steelworkers Union local 1-1937 President Brian Butler confirmed the union, representing nearly 3,000 WFP workers, has agreed to restart mediated negotiations in Nanaimo.

Mediator Vince Ready has appealed to both parties on Tuesday to restart negotiations. Negotiations broke on Nov. 18. 

Butler said two of the biggest issues remaining is an unacceptable drug enforcement policy and shifting, but says WFP is still asking for concessions.

He added the union “expects to get an agreement that is concession-free.”

“It’s going to take having Western Forest products understand the human element in the workplace and not just thinking about bottom lines and numbers and that their profits are driven by a well-educated and well-skilled workforce,” Butler said.

Workers have been off the job since July 1 demanding fair wages and working conditions.

Union members and many Island communities have said the dispute is having a ripple effect right across the economy.

In its latest update on the labour dispute Nov. 18, WFP said it “offered a five-year agreement, which included a $2,000 signing bonus and wage increases of two per cent per year for the first four years and two-point-five per cent in the fifth year.”

The company says it also dropped pension plan alternatives and all other proposals the union opposed and tried modernizing more than 30-year-old agreements to support future employment.

When asked if a deal is possible in this round of talks, Butler said, “It’s going to take some hard work and having Western Forest products understand the human element in the workplace and not just thinking about bottom lines and numbers and that their profits are driven by a well educated and well-skilled workforce.”

Logging contractors are planning a rally at the B.C. Legislature Wednesday urging an end to the dispute, but United Steelworkers informed its members that the rally is not supported by the local.

“This rally is being organized by contractors that want binding mediation to force concessions on our striking members to end the strike,” the union said on its Facebook page.

 

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