City of Powell River will be urging Western Forest Products (WFP) and the United Steelworkers (USW) to get back to the bargaining table to resolve the current strike.
At the Thursday, November 7, council meeting, councillors reviewed a draft letter that will be signed by a number of mayors from coastal communities, citing the lack of progress in bargaining as being “very concerning to us as community leaders,” according to the draft.
Acting mayor George Doubt said the strike has been affecting many communities on Vancouver Island and the coast. He said there had been a string of communications among mayors from Port McNeill, North Cowichan, Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port Alice, Port Alberni, Sayward, Tahsis and Ladysmith.
“It developed over a period of a couple of days among this group of mayors wishing to have a united front to write to both of the parties in this dispute between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers to demonstrate to them the effect this labour dispute is having on the communities, businesses, the people who work for Western Forest Products and others in the communities,” said Doubt. “This is to urge them to get busy and resolve their differences.”
Doubt said the mayors are not taking sides in the issue, but want to encourage both sides to get back to the bargaining table and resolve the dispute so “we can get back to business as usual, so people can get to work and start earning a living in the forest.”
Doubt said he wanted to read the last paragraph of the letter to give people an idea of what is being said.
Doubt read: “We acknowledge there are important issues to be sorted out between the USW and WFP. However, time is ticking and we need both sides to begin earnest bargaining and seek a resolution as soon as possible, even if temporarily. Our communities and the families within them are asking you to bargain in good faith. We are asking you to press through your differences for the sake of every family who is struggling. We need you to look across the table and see the faces of your employees or union members because that’s what this dispute is all about. With the strike now into its fifth month, our communities can’t sustain this loss of employment any longer. We urge you to get back to the table and end this labour dispute for the sake of all of those who are experiencing such a great hardship.”
Doubt said he was seeking authorization to sign onto this letter and hopefully encourage the parties to resolve the matter.
Councillor Rob Southcott said he attended the recent truck loggers association dinner in Powell River. The organization represents more than 30 small contractors in this community, many of whom are riding a line close to the edge as a consequence of the strike, he added.
“Some of these guys can’t survive with the kind of financial obligations they have,” said Southcott. “I am glad to see this letter going out.”
He said council could advocate and raise its voice on this matter.
Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she was grateful to see the letter added to council’s agenda.
“Thank you for whomever brought this forward,” she said.
Councillor Jim Palm said the forest industry is important for the survival of all kinds of rural communities in BC.
“We would like to see those workers back on the job,” said Palm. “Not only here on the coast, but in the interior, there’s a lot of people hurting in BC now.”
Council voted in favour of a motion to sign the letter and send it to WFP and the USW.