The Western Forest Products mills in Cowichan Bay and Ladysmith are still not in operation after the lengthy strike ended earlier this month, with the company citing log supplies and markets as the main reasons. (File photo)

Pair of Western Forest Products mills remain idle after exhausting strike

WFP claims log supply, markets to blame for continued idling at Ladysmith and Cowichan Bay

The strike at Western Forest Products may be over, but many of its employees in the Cowichan Valley are still waiting to go back to work.

The WFP sawmill in Chemainus began operations on Feb. 20, just a few days after workers ratified their new collective agreement, but the mills in Cowichan Bay and Ladysmith, which employ hundreds of workers, have yet to reopen.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN WORKERS OPTIMISTIC, BUT CAUTIOUS, OVER DEAL TO END STRIKE AT WFP

Babita Khunkhun, a spokeswoman for WFP, said the forest company is currently ramping up and resuming operations after the almost eight-month strike at all its mills based on a number of factors which vary by operation, including log supply and customer orders that need to be filled.

“We will continue to monitor log supply and market conditions to determine when operations will resume at Cowichan Bay [and Ladysmith],” she said.

“But we don’t have a date set at this time.”

About 3,000 employees and contractors at WFP facilities in several Vancouver Island communities had been off the job since July 1.

RELATED STORY: STRIKING FORESTRY WORKERS TAKE TO THE STREETS IN DUNCAN

In a vote held on Feb. 15, 81 per cent of the workers, members of the United Steel Workers Local 1-1937, voted in favour of ratifying the tentative agreement with the company.

The agreement included a 12.5 per cent increase in wages in two- and three-per cent increments over five years, increased premiums for those with first aid, a safety boot allowance and changes to policies on shift work.

It also included zero concessions, a long-standing demand of the union during the labour dispute.

The new five-year collective agreement is retroactive to June 15, 2019.

Workers have been without a contract since June 14, 2019.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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