Striking loggers receive support at Campbell River rally

United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 held a rally at Western Forest Products’ office in Campbell River on Sept. 26, 2019. The WFP workers have been on strike since July 1. Photo by Marissa Tiel/Campbell River Mirror

Striking loggers received words of encouragement from union and government leadership at a rally in Campbell River today.

Hundreds of United Steelworkers (USW) union members and their supporters gathered in the lot below Western Forest Products’ (WFP) second-storey office in the Discovery Harbour Centre Thursday afternoon.

Holding up signs that read: “Unsociable Alternate Shifts,” “WFP Unfair Drug Policy,” “WFP Bullies of the Woods” among others, the crowd chanted their approval of the speakers.

WFP workers have been on strike since July 1, after 98.8 per cent of the USW members voted in favour of a strike when the two sides couldn’t ratify a collective agreement to replace their previous five-year agreement.

Mediation talks broke down mid-September.

The crowd heard from USW Local 1-1937 President Brian Butler, who said the union wasn’t willing to agree to the 24 concessions brought to the bargaining table.

“Somewhere they calculated that our members are weak. Somewhere they calculated that our union was weak,” he said. “Well I can tell you right now they are dead wrong. We will be on the picket line one day longer than this company is willing to take.”

He was interrupted as the crowd broke into chants of: “One more day.”

Butler referenced a WFP drug and alcohol policy and alternate shift schedules.

“These are dangerous shifts that have long hours,” he said. “They not only put workers in danger, they are shifts that are not conducive to having a quality family life.”

The crowd then heard from USW Local 2009 President Al Bieksa, who was visiting from the Lower Mainland.

“I know the kind of courage it takes to stand on a picket line and go against a multi-billion dollar corporation,” he said. “I know the courage and the determination that every one of you have when you made your decision to stick with your bargaining committee and go on strike for what you say is fair.”

He offered support from the 3,000 members on the Lower Mainland.

Jeff Bromley, the USW Wood Council Chair then addressed concerns over health benefits.

He said that on Sept. 1, a lot of the striking workers’ benefits were cut off, leaving more than 1,000 without access to benefits. But as of this morning, the Coastal Health and Welfare Trustees along with USW Local 1-1937 had entered into an agreement “to provide for your benefits in the same manner they are currently in and so your benefits will be restored if you opt in.”

The workers were congratulated by many of the speakers, including Rachel Blaney, NDP candidate seeking re-election in North Island – Powell River, for their bravery in continuing to strike after nearly three months on the picket line.

“I know it’s hard. I want to recognize that,” she said. “It’s hard to keep standing up every single day, waking up knowing you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to let people know. And it’s hard on people. It’s hard financially; it’s hard emotionally. And we know that we’re going to last that one extra day, but damn it’s hard when we have to do it every single day.”

Another rally is planned for WFP’s Nanaimo office, but a date and time were not announced.

RELATED: Union says mediated negotiation with WFP has been ‘disappointing’

RELATED: Striking WFP workers in Campbell River say loss of benefits will ‘create animosity that will last for years’


@marissatiel
marissa.tiel@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Unstoppable’ Nanaimo nurse recognized for work caring for survivors of assault

Island Health’s Aimee Falkenberg receives Canadian Forensic Nurses Association’s Visionary Award

Regional District of Nanaimo urges residents to sign up for new emergency alert system

RDN aligns its alert technology with Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach

‘Food 4 Summer’ campaign in Nanaimo receives $10,000 from Island Savings

Loaves and Fishes trying to build new donor relationships during pandemic

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Nanaimo woman will buy ‘supersonic’ hair dryer after $500,000 lotto win

Debra Allen won $500,000 in July 28 Lotto Max draw

Nanaimo tourism contest assures visitors ‘we’re ready for you’

Nanaimo Hospitality Association and partners offering prizes of hotel stays and tourism experiences

Nanaimo barber looks at new style for back-to-school fundraiser

Dave Lawrence of That 50’s Barber Shop getting tattoo in Fresh Start promo on Aug. 17

Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

For every dollar the province spends the federal government will match

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

Designs come in for proposed student housing across from NDSS

City of Nanaimo reviewing development permit application for 160-unit Wakesiah complex

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Most Read