Port McNeill mayor renews calls for non-binding inquiry into WFP strike

WatchA day after two mediators quit working with both sides in the WFP strike Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom is calling again for an Industrial Inquiry Commission to give a non-binding recommendation that is made public.

The Town of Port McNeill has been hit hard by the seven-month-long forestry strike and on Wednesday, Mayor Gaby Wickstrom wasn’t mincing words as she reacted to news that two mediators working with Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Union quit Tuesday.

“It was horrific news and I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that it felt like we got punched in the stomach,” said Wickstrom. “If you have one of the best mediators, Vince Ready, helping two sides and they can not come to an agreement how in the heck are they ever going to come to an agreement on their own?”

About 3,000 forestry workers, who are members of the United Steelworkers Union, are on strike the but the number of others affected has been estimated to be three to four times as many. Many of those affect are in Port McNeill.

“We’ve got direct industry that services the forest industry, and they’ve been hit with a 50 per cent to 60 per cent cut in their business or more, and the coffee shops, the clothing stores have all been hit very hard,” she added.

Ron Tucker is a contractor who owns Nimpkish Logging in Port McNeill and feels like many that the two sides are no further ahead now than when the strike began on July 1, 2019, but felt there was at least some direction when the mediators were involved. But now they’re not.

“Nobody really knows what side to believe anymore and frustration is at an unbelievable level,” Tucker said.

Gaby Wickstrom is renewing calls for an Industrial Inquiry Commission to review both sides of the strike.

“It’s an independent panel that gives a non-binding recommendation that is made public,” said said. “This could be the piece that helps them solve this impasse.”

Meanwhile, Loonies for Loggers has now raised $180,000 since October and continues to help families in need.

“Communities are behind us,” said co-organizer Tamera Meggitt. “Communities understand that we need these people fed, we need them to stay in these communities and the donations keep coming in.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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