Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom. (Supplied by Gaby Wickstrom, Facebook)
Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom is expressing her frustration about the latest development in the forestry workers strike.
The mediators in the talks between Western Forest Products and USW 1-1937 left the table earlier this week.
Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers say they pulled out of the talks because the two sides remain far apart and unwilling to change their positions.
Wickstrom calls it a ‘terrible blow.’
“If these two sides cannot reach an agreement with one of the best mediators, I don’t see how they’re going to reach an agreement without him at the table with them,” she said.
Western Forest Products’ workers have been on strike since July 1st of last year.
The more than seven month long strike involves 3,000 workers at Western’s sawmill and timberland operations.
Wickstrom said the strike is devastating to not only Port McNeill, but communities of all sizes.
And she doesn’t see a resolution happening anytime soon.
“There’s always hope but they have not been at the table since Dec. 19 together, in the same room,” Wickstrom said. “It’s always been through the mediator, back and forth. That’s why I say it’s not really surprising that the mediator decided that he couldn’t assist at this point in time.”
Wickstrom said she’s heard from a few contractors who say this next month will be “do or die” for them.
“They’ve exhausted everything and they’re really not sure how much longer they can hold on.”
She added that small business owners in Port McNeill are also feeling the pain.
“I spoke to a lady this morning who owns a coffee shop. It’s herself and one employee who are running it and they can’t even afford the propane anymore to actually serve food so they’re only serving refreshments. She hasn’t paid herself in three months.”
Wickstrom said the number ‘3,000’ only represents the number of striking USW workers and doesn’t reflect those caught up in the ripple effect of the dispute.
“There are thousands of contractors, at least twice that, that were caught in the bite, and now we have thousands of people, small business owners, regular everyday people that have been laid off,” she said.