Striking Vancouver Island forestry workers, Western Forest Products return to bargaining table

A section of forest is harvested by loggers near Youbou, B.C. Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.
A section of forest is harvested by loggers near Youbou, B.C. Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Both sides in a long, bitter labour dispute in the Vancouver Island forestry industry are heading back to the bargaining table.

Close to 3,000 unionized contractors and employees with Western Forest Products have been on strike since July 1.

READ MORE: ‘It’s heartbreaking’: Vancouver Island communities grapple with logging strike fallout

Mediated talks broke down in mid-November, when the United Steelworkers Union membership rejected the employer’s last offer.

Click to play video: 'Logging truck convoy rolls into Vancouver'
Logging truck convoy rolls into Vancouver

Western Forest Products said Tuesday that the two sides would return to meet with independent mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers this week.

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Both sides have agreed to a media blackout during the negotiations.

READ MORE: Western Forest Products says contract talks with striking union have stalled

The company’s last offer to the union included a five-year deal with a $2,000 signing bonus and wage hikes of two per cent for the first four years, followed by 2.5 per cent in the fifth.

The stalled negotiations prompted Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom to write an open letter to both sides last month, urging them to get back to the table.

Volunteers who have been helping families affected by the strike say many fear losing their homes, and have been reduced to feeding themselves with gift cards.

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