A pair of top mediators who stepped away from talks aimed at ending a seven-month-long dispute between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers union have now been appointed as special mediators by B.C.’s Minister of Labour.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Minister Harry Bains announced the appointments of Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers just two days after they left the talks, when they said they saw no basis for a negotiated settlement.
“I have decided to appoint special mediators Ready and Rogers with additional powers under the Labour Relations Code to help the parties reach an agreement as soon as possible,” said Bains.
As special mediators, the pair will provide the parties and the minister with recommended terms for settlement, after which both sides will have five days to either accept or reject, according to the statement.
Bains can also choose to make the terms of settlement public.
“I am confident that with the assistance of two of the nation’s top mediators, and the additional powers provided to them under the Labour Relations Code by this appointment, both sides can achieve a deal that ensures the sustainability of coastal forestry jobs and supports the terms and conditions of employment important to workers.”
About 3,000 Vancouver Island forest workers and contractors represented by United Steelworkers Union Local 1-1937 have been off the job since July 1, when they began striking over potential loss of pensions, seniority rights and long-term disability benefits.
Talks between the company and the union reached an impasse in December, but the mediators invited both sides back to the table last week.