The end may be near for a coastal forestry strike that recently entered its eighth month.
Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 announced today they have agreed to the terms of a tentative collective agreement.
“With the assistance of special mediators, Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers, we have reached a fair and equitable agreement that balances the needs of our employees and our business,” said Don Demens, President and Chief Executive Officer of Western. “This has been a particularly challenging time and I’m pleased that we were able to find common ground through the efforts of all involved.”
The strike has impacted families up and down the Island, but it has been felt especially hard by North Island communities. A grassroots group called Loonies for Loggers began and has been helping support families on the Island who are affected by the strike since the fall.
The development comes after months at a standstill.
Among the issues for the union were alternate shifts and a company drug and alcohol policy.
In mid-December, the union had said it was willing to modify its position if talks progressed. But they broke off just before Christmas.
Mediators called the parties back to mediation at the end of January and in early February said they would review their positions.
Early last week, Ready and Rogers withdrew from the mediation process. At the time, they said they saw “no basis for a negotiated settlement.”
They were re-appointed Thursday morning by Harry Bains, Minister of Labour and given “additional powers under the Labour Relations Code.”
“This dispute has taken a huge toll on workers and their families as well as the entire coastal forestry community,” he said in a Feb. 6 press release. “We want to see everyone get back on the job.”
USW membership will have a ratification vote on the tentative agreement. The USW bargaining committee has said they will be advising members to accept the agreement.
In a statement today, Brian Butler, president of USW Local-1937, said the details of the agreement would not be released until after the union’s members have a chance to look at and vote on the terms of the agreement. No date has been set, but Butler said he hopes this happens “in a timely manner.”
He is pleased there are no concessions in the tentative agreement.
“Our union is extremely proud of our members’ solidarity in this extended struggle to achieve a fair collective agreement with Western Forest products and their associated contractors,” said Butler. “The local union wishes to thank mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers for their assistance in teaching the tentative agreement.”
The strike began on July 1, 2019.
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