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Premier promises end to months-long forestry strike on Vancouver Island

Last Updated Dec 13, 2019 at 5:30 pm PST

FILE - B.C. Premier John Horgan, July 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

B.C.'s premier says the time is now for the ongoing forestry strike on Vancouver Island to end

Members of Western Forest Products and the United Steel Workers union are sitting down with mediators this weekend

Wages, shift structures, and severance are some of the sticking points between the two sides

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The province’s ongoing forestry strike has got to end. Those strong words have come from B.C.’s premier, as he addressed a bargaining impasse that’s devastating communities on Vancouver Island.

The premier said the deal would be done this weekend. Since then a scheduling issue has postponed the meeting until Monday. He maintains his confidence that once the parties get to the table with mediator Vince Ready an agreement will be made.

“To Port Alberni, to Campbell River, to Port McNeill — there are families that are being torn apart because they’ve had six months without a salary,” John Horgan told NEWS 1130 in a one-on-one interview.

His comments come as the parties involved in the dispute sit down with mediators in a media blackout. Horgan says he hasn’t minced words, letting the parties know his expectations as they’ve returned to the bargaining table.

“I’ve made it abundantly clear to the company, Western Forest Products, and to the United Steel Workers that they need to get an agreement,” Horgan said.

Wages, shift structures, and severance are some of the sticking points between the company and the 3,000 workers who have been off since July.

After such a long and tough battle, what makes him so sure the disagreement will come to an end now?

“Because it’s time and I’ve made it clear to them that they’ve got to get this done,” he said, adding the struggles communities are facing are compounded.

“It’s not just people directly affected by the forest industry, in terms of their jobs, it’s contractors, it’s small businesses, it’s the entire community.”

Horgan echoed some of the sentiments shared by local mayors, who last month, penned a letter describing how the job action has impacted their communities.

“…we are compelled to draw your attention to the economic devastation this dispute is causing for the families who live and work in our communities,” the letter reads, in part.

“We felt it was very important that each side know the story, it has a face. It isn’t about the union or the company. These are communities, these are families and we are hurting,” Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom, who was among the local leaders to sign the letter, said.

-With files from Renee Bernard