There’s still no end in sight to the labour dispute between the United Steelworkers and Western Forest Products that includes the Chemainus sawmill. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Striking Western Forest Products mill workers await word on potential mediation

Union head says meeting with mediator and company determines Sept. 13 mediation attendance

With a work stoppage into its third month, striking Western Forest Products mill workers rallied in Nanaimo last Friday.

Workers represented by United Steelworkers Local 1-1937, including those from the Chemainus sawmill, began striking on July 1 and Stephanie Empey, Duke Point mill strike captain, said they moved pickets to Terminal Avenue in Nanaimo to raise more awareness.

“A lot of people don’t even realize why we’re on strike or that we’re actually on strike,” said Empey. “We just want to let people know that we are on strike and we’re still fighting.”

Empey said the union is taking issues with concessions being proposed.

“There’s more than 20 concessions that Western has put in place,” said Empey. “They’re trying to remove some of our benefits, they’re trying to remove our pension (and) seniority rights. They’re trying to implement a new wage for new workers. There’s a lot.”

Susan Dolinksi, Western Forest Products’ vice-president of corporate affairs, said a date to meet with Vince Ready, a noted mediator, has been scheduled for Sept. 13. The company is looking forward to getting back to the table and is focusing its energy on the meeting, she said.

However, the union said that date is dependent on “significant movement being made by (Western) to facilitate the desire for a meeting.”

Empey said the union does want to meet for mediation, but not under current conditions.

“The union’s position right now is until they’re ready to move these concessions they’ve got on the table, we’re not going back to mediation.”

Brian Butler, USW Local 1-1937 president, said the union is waiting to hear back from Ready following a meeting with Western. What transpires there will determine whether the union will be at the table on Sept. 13, Butler said.

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