Forestry strike 'killing our communities,' says Vancouver Island mayor
VICTORIA – The mayor of a North Island logging town is again calling on both sides in the ongoing forestry labour dispute to resolve their issues, saying the strike is "killing" the region.
Port McNeill Mayor Gabriele Wickstrom wrote the open letter to United Steelworkers union negotiator Brian Butler and Western Forest Products labour director Roger MacDougall, and posted it to her Facebook page Friday morning.
"This strike cannot go any longer," Wickstrom wrote.
"It’s killing our communities and heartbreaking to see what it’s doing to people. We are struggling and reaching the point where it is going to be very difficult to come back from. We are resilient and look after each other, but we can only take so much before we break," she said.
Last week, Wickstrom and other North Island mayors penned a letter to the union and the forestry company, calling for an immediate end to the nearly five-month strike.
The strike is affecting not just those employed in forestry, but also several small businesses that are indirectly supported by the industry.
"If you look at this from a take-home wage perspective, not gross income, so far each individual employee has lost somewhere between $25,000 to $35,000 of pay," Wickstrom wrote.
"Independent contractors are on the edge of losing their equipment and livelihoods. People have had vehicles repossessed and many more have voluntarily returned them so as not to affect their credit rating."
Wickstrom said the strike is also hurting families struggling to make mortgage payments, especially just before the holiday season.
"I am begging you, for the sake of every person that lives in a coastal community, to get back into a room together and work out a deal," the mayor wrote.
"It’s not about whether or not there will be a Christmas. It’s whether or not we will have any pieces left over to pick up when the dust finally settles."