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Talks in bitter B.C. forestry strike could resume Sunday, says union

Striking United Steelworkers forestry workers seen on the picket line in Chemainus in January, 2020. Global News

As a bitter strike affecting about 3,000 unionized coastal forestry workers and contractors hits the eight-month mark, both sides in the dispute appear set to head back to the bargaining table.

Western Forest Products (WFP) workers with United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1-1937, mostly on Vancouver Island, have been on strike since July 1.

Veteran mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers have been trying to help both sides reach common ground, but talks have broken off several times in recent months.

READ MORE: B.C. puts up $5M for forestry strike, but critics not impressed

Now, the union says both sides have said they are available to meet on a mediator-recommended date of Sunday, Feb. 2.

A spokesperson for WFP says the company has scheduled a meeting with mediators, “and we will take our lead from them on next steps.”

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Click to play video: 'B.C. premier gets frosty reception at truck loggers convention' B.C. premier gets frosty reception at truck loggers convention
B.C. premier gets frosty reception at truck loggers convention – Jan 16, 2020

Earlier this month, B.C. Premier John Horgan called the lengthy strike “unprecedented,” and offered up a $5-million loan package to contractors in danger of losing their equipment due to the work stoppage.

On Friday, the province opened applications to that program.

The long dispute has hit logging families hard and has had a strong knock-on effect on other businesses in logging communities.

READ MORE: ‘It’s overwhelming’: Families face cold Christmas as B.C. logging strike talks break down again

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom told Global News earlier in January that several businesses in her community had been forced to lay off staff.

Volunteers helping supply logging families with food and essentials have said people are looking for work elsewhere in the province, and some are at risk of losing their homes.

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Beyond the premier urging “both sides to get on with it,” the province has steadfastly refused to intervene in the dispute.

Horgan told the Truck Loggers Association earlier this month that the best solution to the impasse remains one found at the bargaining table.

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