Western Forest says negotiations with United Steelworkers 'no longer occurring'
Western Forest Products announced that after resuming discussions with the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 this week, active negotiations are no longer occurring and no future mediation dates have been scheduled at this time. Don Demens, President and CEO, had the following statement: "This weekend, Western tabled a fair proposal with the goal of ending the strike and bringing people back to work. After approximately 14 hours of bargaining occurring over Saturday and Sunday morning, we were informed by independent mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers that talks were over. We offered a five-year agreement, which included a $2,000 signing bonus and wage increases of 2% per year for the first four years and 2.5% in the fifth year. After previously dropping pension plan alternatives opposed by the Union, we also dropped all remaining proposals that the Union opposed, including modernizing agreements dating back to 1986 which would support future employment. Our offer is aligned with recent forest industry collective bargaining settlements and provides certainty for employees, customers, contractors, and communities. Our goal is to get people back to work, end the strike and enable us to supply products to our customers. To achieve this goal, we asked the Local Union Bargaining Committee to allow employees to return to work while they ask membership to vote on our proposal. To date, the Committee has rejected this proposal as well as our request to go to binding arbitration. The Committee continues to demand a shorter-term agreement, with wage increases which are nearly 40 per cent higher than recent industry agreements and changes that would eliminate current shift flexibility required to operate the business. Western carefully considered all of the Committee's proposals, including demonstrating openness to a four-year term. However, in an industry already challenged to compete in global markets, the Committee's proposals in their entirety are not sustainable; challenging future capital investment, decreasing operational certainty and restricting our ability to operate efficiently. While Western is doing what it can to end the strike, we must also protect the future of our business so we can continue to employ thousands of people in British Columbia. Western remains willing to honour our proposal, go to binding arbitration, or explore other opportunities to get our employees back to work and end the strike. We are urging the Committee to reconsider its decision and allow employees to vote on this offer so we can return people to work as soon as possible." The strike, which commenced on July 1, 2019, affects all the Company's United Steelworkers certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in British Columbia, impacting approximately 1,500 of the Company's hourly employees and approximately 1,500 employees working for the Company's timberland operators and contractors.