Campbell River’s mayor hopes his call for both sides in the foresty workers’ strike to get back to the bargaining table is heard.
Mayor Andy Adams joined city councillors, Kermit Dahl and Charlie Cornfield, at the annual Truck Loggers Association Convention last week in Vancouver.
Going into the meeting, Adams said they’d be speaking out at every opportunity about the devastating effects on Campbell River of the prolonged labour dispute between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers, and “the urgent need to resume talks.”
Adams described the general mood among the Truck Loggers Association members as “pretty sombre.”
“There are a lot of people who are hurting due to the indecisiveness of a number of parties, primarily the provincial government in their tenure,” Adams said.
“But also the ongoing dispute between Western Forest Products and USW (United Steelworkers) certainly is having an effect on the coastal forestry service and everybody that is working in that area and affected.”
Adams said the strike is impacting Campbell River residents and businesses because the city is a service hub for the entire North Island.
He said that’s why the city donated $20,000 to Loonies for Loggers, a group that delivers groceries and other items to families impacted by the strike.
“All of the people living in Gold River and Tahsis, and Zeballos, and Port McNeill and Woss and everywhere else, are coming to Campbell River to do all of their shopping whether it be groceries, or trucks, or cars, or clothing, or whatever. We’re their first stop,” Adams said.
“The amount of financial and economic infusion that’s brought in by people throughout the North Island in the forest sector is significant.”
He said several local businesses are being adversely impacted by the strike.
“We want to be very front and centre in our support for the forest sector, and that’s why we have advocated to both the USW and Western Forest Products, and the premier, to get the parties back to the table and resolve this unacceptably long labour dispute,” Adams added.
Loan ‘not good enough’
During the meeting, Premier John Horgan announced that the province is doling out $5 million to logging contractors impacted by the strike.
The $5 million Coastal Logging Equipment Support Trust that will provide financing to eligible coastal logging contractors to help them avert foreclosure of logging equipment on the coast.
Contractors will be able to borrow bridging funds, allowing them to continue making payments on their logging equipment.
Asked what he thought of the announcement, Adams answered: “Not much.”
“Certainly the $5 million is a start, but it is only being offered to contractors or those in the sector and it is a repayable loan with interest,” he said.
“And that isn’t impacting a lot of the people that are being adversely affected by this strike. Servicing, and retail, or shops, or companies that are supporting the forest sector, that aren’t contractors are not eligible for that money, and that’s where they are really missing what’s actually going on up here and needs to be addressed. It was a good start, but really not good enough.”