Mediators walk away from Vancouver Island forestry strike talks

Mediators walk away from Vancouver Island forestry strike talks
The Vancouver Island forestry strike started on July 1, 2019.

Western Forest Products says mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers have withdrawn from the Vancouver Island forestry strike talks.

Western Forest Products (WFP) said they received a letter from Ready and Rogers on Tuesday informing WFP and United Steel Workers (USW) Local 1-1937 they have withdrawn from the mediation process as they see no basis for a negotiation settlement at this time.

“We are disappointed that despite previous proposals offering superior wage and contract provisions to what the USW and the forest sector have agreed to throughout British Columbia we have been unable to reach a negotiated settlement,” Don Demens, president and CEO of Western said in a statement.

“We will continue to explore all options available to bring an end to the prolonged USW strike and have reached out to the Ministry of Labour to seek clarification on next steps. We recognize the profound impact the strike is having on our employees, contractors, their families and communities. We remain committed to reaching a fair and equitable agreement that recognizes the important contributions of our employees, while maintaining the sustainability of our business so that we can continue to serve our customers who, through their purchases, support thousands of jobs in communities on the coast of British Columbia,” said Demens.

On Tuesday night, USW issued a statement.

“It is clear to the USW that WFP’s refusal to move off their concessions and change any of their positions led to the frustration of the mediators and their decision to withdraw.”

The mayor of Port McNeill Gaby Wickstrom posted the news on her Facebook page.

“This is devastating news and shows how far apart both sides are,” Wickstrom wrote.

“Again I ask, how long can this continue? Where is the balance on both sides when the gains are few compared to the losses of people caught in the crossfire? How can we be in this position where two sides of a dispute cannot even be in the same room together? I find their behaviour unconscionable.”

News travels very fast and I know this information is already circulating around town. Mediator Vince Ready has…

Posted by Gaby Wickstrom – Mayor of Port McNeill on Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Earlier Tuesday, the union had said in a news release that WFP and the union had both met with the mediators to review their respective position.

“The mediators advised that they want to evaluate the parties’ positions and consider the points raised before determining the next step in the process,” the union wrote.

“We will update the membership when we hear back from the mediators.

The strike began on July 1. The action affects about 3,000 coastal forest workers employed in Western Forest Products sawmills and timberlands operations in the province. The union says the strike is over the potential loss of pensions, seniority rights and long-term disability benefits.

In December, Western Forest Products announced that a round of talks the union had collapsed and negotiations had reached an impasse.


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