North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has weighed in on the coastal forestry strike, urging both sides to get back to the bargaining table.
Blaney stated in an open letter to Western Forest Products that as MP for this riding, she iselected to represent and advocate for dozens of communities on the northern half of Vancouver Island and the coast.
“In every one of them, forestry plays a significant role,” Blaney stated. “The current labour dispute between Western Forest Products and their workers who are members of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 has gone on too long and is causing significant harm to the communities I represent. So while the forestry industry is managed by the Province of BC and is not federal jurisdiction, as an elected community leader I must add my voice to the mayors and councils and others to implore you to end the damage being inflicted on our communities and to take the necessary steps, which are within your power, to reach an agreement with the union and get people back to work.”
Blaney stated she has visited the picket lines and spoken with workers, skilled and hardworking coastal people; some are veterans who have been through this before, for some this is a new and unexpected experience.
“All of them would rather be working than standing outside holding picket signs, but they don’t want to give up benefits that were fought for and agreed to by workers that came before them, and that made a career in forestry and a life in their coastal community part of their plan for the future,” stated Blaney. “As this strike goes on, families are struggling, young people are leaving our communities and businesses are facing closures. This isn’t only the case for those on the picket lines, but also contractors who can't work and whose equipment is caught up in the dispute, as well as other local businesses who provide goods and services in communities where forestry is a major employer.”
Blaney stated that as an act of good faith, at the very least, she encourages Western Forest Products to resume coverage of employee benefits during the strike as has been the precedent in previous disputes.
“It is disappointing that the most recent bargaining session didn’t conclude with an agreement, but that work must continue until it does,” stated Blaney. “I urge both parties to get back to the table as soon as possible, as that is the only way to get people back to work, which is what we all want to see.”