Mediated talks between union, Western Forest Products collapse, prolonging strike

Mediated talks have broken down between striking forestry workers and Western Forest Products as the labour dispute enters its 12th week.

Western Forest Products and United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 both reported that talks with mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers collapsed Friday in Nanaimo.

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Western Forest Products said mediators informed the company that the union left discussions and would not be returning for a scheduled day of talks on Saturday.

“We are disappointed that talks have broken off and firmly believe that resuming discussions with the assistance of an independent mediator is the best way for both parties to resolve our differences,” Don Demens, Western’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

The union blamed the breakdown on “outrageous and unwarranted concessions” being sought by the company.

The union said the company is upset with stumpage rates and new government regulations aimed at reducing raw log exports.

“We firmly believe [Western Forest Products] has an agenda from the beginning to break the union and blacken the eye of the B.C. government over policies it doesn’t like,” Rick Nelson, the local’s first vice-president, said in a statement.

“They are sadly mistaken if they think it will work.”

The strike, which began July 1, affects about 3,000 workers at all the company’s union-certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in British Columbia.

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