British Columbia

Thousands strike at Western Forest Products in B.C.

Western Forest Products say about 1,500 of the company's hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for its timberland contractors and operators walked off the job Monday.

Company says about 3,000 workers walked off the job Monday

Approximately 3,000 Western Forest Products workers walked off the job July 1, 2019. (USW 1-1937/Facebook)

About 3,000 forestry workers are on strike in coastal British Columbia after negotiations between Western Forest Products Inc. and the United Steelworkers failed to produce a new contract.

Western Forest Products say about 1,500 of the company's hourly employees and 1,500 employees working for its timberland contractors and operators walked off the job Monday.

The strike affects all of the company's certified manufacturing and timberlands operations in British Columbia. (USW 1-1937/Facebook)

United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 says members, who voted 98.8 per cent in favour of striking, have started the job action because the company has not seriously addressed union proposals and continues to keep "massive concessions" on the bargaining table.

"We are very disappointed that the USW [union] has chosen to take strike action," said Susan Dolinski, vice president of corporate affairs with the company.

Western has been in negotiations with the union since April 2019 for a new collective agreement. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"We're at the place where the union has cancelled scheduled bargaining sessions and has no refused mediation."

She said the strike comes at a "very challenging time" for the industry with a market downturn, due to low lumber prices and high costs because of the softwood lumber duties.   

"We've essentially shut down operations at all of our facilities based on the fact that there are picket lines set up."

The sawmill in Ladysmith, B.C. and two operations in the U.S. are still running, Dolinski said. 

The union says it believes an agreement can be reached quickly once talks resume. CBC is waiting for a response from the union with more details. 

With files from CBC's Megan Thomas