'Help is on the way': B.C. minister meets with island forestry workers
VICTORIA -- B.C.'s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Doug Donaldson, met with Vancouver Island forestry workers and promised that "help is on the way" on Thursday.
Donaldson, alongside North Island MLA Claire Trevena, visited Port Hardy and Port McNeill to speak with community members and local mayors about the industry, and an ongoing union strike that is nearing its six-month mark.
"We have heard clearly throughout this situation – and again today – how incredibly tough this is for contractors, workers and their families, especially at this time of year," reads Donaldson's statement.
The provincial government says it will launch a temporary funding program for independent workers who are facing repossession due to the strike, which started on July 1.
"I told contractors today that we are developing a program that will offer short-term bridge financing to contractors who aren’t parties to the strike whose equipment has been repossessed or are facing imminent threat of repossession," said Donaldson.
"We understand how urgent this situation is for people and are working to get this up and running as soon as possible in January."
The minister also promised that the provincial government would call on the federal government to review options on how to aid B.C. forestry workers and contractors.
Meanwhile, B.C.'s Minister of Labour, Harry Bains, was also on the North Island Thursday to speak with leadership from Western Forest Products (WFP) and the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937.
The meeting comes after negotiations between WFP and the union broke down yet again this week. On Tuesday, WFP announced that bargaining between the forestry company and the union had ceased, with no plans for a future meeting scheduled.
On Tuesday evening, Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom said on Twitter that the strike, which affects approximately 3,000 British Columbians, was devastating her community.
"I have no words available to describe my intense disappointment," said Wickstrom.
"Seeing the look of despair on the faces of struggling community members is almost unbearable," the mayor said.