Photograph by Jon Butterworth
BC Labour Minister Harry Bains has appointed Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers as special mediators in the nearly eight-month-long strike at Western Forest Products.
They had walked away from the mediation earlier this week, saying the two sides were simply too far apart in their negotiation positions to have a hope of an agreement.
Bains says that he’s confident that with the help of two of the top negotiators in the country – and the additional power they have under the labour code – a settlement can be reached.
The special mediators can also make recommendations that will go to the Labour Minister if the new round of talks fails to produce a result.
Bains believes both sides can achieve a deal that ensures the sustainability of forestry jobs and supports the terms and conditions of employment that are important to workers.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring feels the additional powers Ready and Rogers have may tip the balance in favour of finally getting a deal to end the strike.
He says the danger of the strike going on much longer is the future impact on the economy, particularily the pulp sector.
Siebring says it was surprising to see the two mediators who walked away from talks are involved once again.
He feels it’s a move to get the “ball a little further down the field and we’ll have to wait and see whether it results in a touchdown.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog is offering a cautious, but positive reaction, to the news.
Krog says the long strike hasn’t had the impact it might have had at one time when the area was much more economically dependant on foresty.
However, he says nearly everyone knows someone who’s employed by Western Forest Products and the strike is still being felt in the community.
Members of the United Steelworkers have been on strike since July 1st of last year.
The three thousand employees work at Western Forest Product’s mills and timberland operations on Vancouver Island.