About 3,000 forestry workers are on strike in coastal British Columbia after negotiations between Western Forest Products Inc. and the United Steelworkers failed to produce a new contract.

Western Forest Products say about 1,500 of the company’s hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for its timberland contractors and operators walked off the job Monday.

The union was seeking a 3-year deal to replace the five-year deal the expired in mid-June. The company and the union were unable to agree on wages and benefits, shifting and a new drug an alcohol policy.

United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 says members, who voted 98.8 per cent in favour of striking, have started the job action because the company has not seriously addressed union proposals and continues to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table.

“Their attitude towards workers is what is leading to this dispute,” said Brian Butler, President of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937.

“And then predominantly they have massive concessions where they’re attacking our pensions,” added Butler. “They’re attacking our benefit plans, they are attacking our job security and they’ve wiped out decades worth of local agreements that our members have negotiated over the years and none of that will stand.”

Western Forest Products (WFP) CEO Don Demens says it is “extremely disappointing” that the union has taken strike action after cancelling bargaining sessions and refusing mediation.

A spokesperson told CHEK News Sunday that Western is fully committed to the bargaining process

“We are disappointed that the Union has chosen to serve us with strike notice. We remain hopeful that a mediator can get us back to the bargaining table to negotiate an agreement that creates certainty for our employees, customers, and the communities where we operate,” said Western President, Don Demens.

Demens says in a release that it’s clear the union is intent on inflicting damage to the coastal forest industry as it faces significant market challenges.

The union says it believes an agreement can be reached quickly once talks resume.

With files from The Canadian Press.

CHEK News