Western Forest Products and workers on Vancouver Island remain deadlocked in a labour dispute after talks broke down this past weekend.
Members of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 have been on strike since July 1 and according to separate press releases, the union and Western took part in 14 hours of negotiations this past weekend, with assistance from mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers. An offer was tabled by the company, but the union rejected it outright and there will be no discussions scheduled in the foreseeable future.
In a press release issued Monday, Don Demens, Western’s president and CEO, said the company offered a five-year deal, which included a $2,000 signing bonus and wage increases of two per cent for the first four years and 2.5 per cent in the fifth year. According to Demens, the company previously dropped pension plan alternatives that USW 1-1937 opposed, and further, took all remaining proposals the union had contention with off the table, including the modernizing agreements dating back to 1986, which would “support future employment.” The offer from Western is in line with other forestry industry collective bargaining agreements and provides “certainty” for stakeholders, the press release said.
In a bargaining update released Monday, the union referred to the company’s offer as a “bare-bones proposal” and said it doesn’t address issues such as “appropriate wages” as USW 1-1937 says its last proposal was for four years and included increases of three per cent the first two years, followed by increases of 2.5 per cent the following two.
Brian Butler, USW 1-1937 president, told the News Bulletin that Ready and Rogers had been helping the process and progress was being made.
“Through the whole process, both sides have made changes to their bargaining positions, so we’re at a time when we’re still apart on wages, term and other benefits, but a couple of key sticking points have been their refusal to deal with our other issues related to the unsafe alternate shifts our members face on a daily basis, as well as their drug and alcohol policy, which is more designed around discriminating and targeting workers than it is on getting help for anybody with a real addiction issue,” said Butler.
He said the union is ready to get back to the bargaining table.
When asked about what it would take to get back to the table, Western Forest Products said it could only refer the News Bulletin to what was in the press release at this time.