Re: Open letter to Don Demens, President & CEO, Western Forest Products and Bryan Butler, President, United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 regarding announcement to resume bargaining.
The Truck Loggers Association represents independent timber harvesting contractors from across the province. We are very pleased to hear that your organizations will resume bargaining after four months of silence since the strike began on July 1, which has had a significant impact on the coastal forest industry, its entire supply chain, and communities.
Western Forest Products (WFP) employs nearly 200 timber harvesting contractors who in turn employ half of the 3,000 USW workers who are on strike. As far as we are aware, prior to yesterday’s announcement, very little bargaining has happened since the strike began. After four months, and with winter fast approaching, it is imperative that a resolution be achieved soon; if not it could very well be spring before people are back to work and harvesting begins again.
We are fearful of the spiraling consequences if this labour action extends much longer. While WFP’s contractors are required to employ USW workers, they have absolutely no voice at the bargaining table. Since their equipment is stuck behind picket lines and their workers are on strike, they have not earned any revenue in almost four months. Without revenues, struck contractors are at an increased risk of exiting the coastal forest sector. How can they continue to pay for their heavy machinery valued in the millions?
Another serious consequence caused by this strike is the thousands of highly skilled workers who are unable, or will become unable to make ends meet; many are leaving the coastal forest sector to find well-paying, stable employment elsewhere. Four months of 3,000 struck workers equals millions of dollars missing from our economy and communities. How will our sector remain competitive if skilled and trained workers are gone?
We acknowledge that there are important issues to be sorted out between the USW and WFP. However, time is ticking and it is imperative that both sides seek a resolution as soon as possible, even if it is a temporary one. If contractors’ businesses fail due to prolonged inactivity, workers won’t have their employers to return to and WFP will be challenged to get logs delivered to its sawmills.
We have written this letter to raise awareness of the collateral consequences and compel you to end this labour conflict quickly.
Truck Loggers Association