Workers from USW 1-1937 in Port Alberni just after shift change in front of Alberni Pacific Division (APD) Sawmill. Union rep Hira Chopra, third from left, said Western traditionally has paid benefits while workers were on strike and workers paid the company back once they returned to work. (SUSIE QUINN/Black Press File Photo)

WFP may meet with USW for mediation Sept. 13

WFP made the announcement on Wednesday, Sept. 4, via press release.

Western Forest Products (WFP) wants to go back to the bargaining table with the United Steel Workers Local 1-1937 (USW) employees as of Sept. 13.

WFP made the announcement on Wednesday, Sept. 4, via press release. Independent-mediator Vince Ready will be handling the negotiations.

“We look forward to resuming discussions with the USW to negotiate a collective agreement that creates certainty for our employees, while maintaining Western’s competitive position during this particularly challenging time for the forest industry,” Don Demens, WFP President and CEO, noted in a statement. “It is important that we resume operations to supply our customers who, through their purchases, create thousands of jobs in BC.”

However, Brian Butler, USW president, said the union is waiting to hear back from Ready, who met with WFP on Sept. 7 for preliminary talks. What transpires there will determine whether the union will be at the table on Sept. 13, Butler said.

Quick facts about the strike:

* USW employees have been behind picket lines since July 1 when they issued a 72-hour strike notice following a 98.8 per cent vote among its members in favour of taking strike action.

* The USW have said its members started the job action because the company has not seriously addressed union proposals and continues to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table as both sides try to negotiate a new collective agreement.

* WFP confirmed that approximately 1,500 of the company’s hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C. went on strike.

* The strike affects all of the company’s United Steelworkers certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in B.C.

* WFP and the USW have been in negotiations since April for a new collective agreement to replace the prior five-year agreement that expired in mid-June.

* The BC Federation of Labour announced a “hot edict” July 11 on WFP in a show of solidarity with striking forest workers.

* On Aug. 20, WFP sent out an email to employees stating that the company is not obligated to provide benefits when a collective agreement is not in place. During the last strike on Vancouver Island in 2007, WFP covered employees’ benefits while they were on the picket line, and employees paid the company back.

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