Businesses and individuals in the Cowichan Valley are rallying to help local members of the United Steelworkers, who have been on strike since July 1, and their families have a festive Christmas season.
Doug Irving, a realtor with Re/Max of Duncan, said there are 520 Steelworkers in the union’s southern local impacted by the long strike at Western Forest Products’ operations, and many of them probably need some financial help getting through Christmas.
Irving, who grew up in Chemainus, said he was a Steelworker when he was younger and worked at the mills in Chemainus and Duke Point.
“I know a lot of guys on the line in local mills, and I’m hearing that some of the workers are worried about finances during Christmas,” he said.
“I was just going to buy turkeys myself to hand out to some of them, but I realized there was a lot of interest by other people out there to help as well, so I thought I’d get others involved.”
Irving said an account has been set up at the Island Savings and donations can be made at any branch in account #2739340.
He said that the plan is to use the money raised to buy gift certificates at Thrifty Foods to hand out to the workers.
“So far, Re/Max of Duncan, Thrifty Foods, the Cowichan Valley Citizen and Island Savings are helping with the cause, and I’m hoping other businesses and the general public will help out as well,” Irving said.
“We hope this will brighten some Christmases this year.”
Approximately 1,500 of WFP’s hourly employees who are members of the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937, including hundreds at WFP mills in Cowichan Bay and Chemainus, and 1,500 employees working for the company’s timberlands operators and contractors in B.C., commenced a strike on Canada Day.
The latest bargaining talks broke down last month, with no new talks scheduled.
The Steelworkers have stated that its members, who voted 98.8 per cent in favour of striking, started the job action because the company has not seriously addressed union proposals and continues to keep “massive concessions” on the bargaining table as both sides try to negotiate a new collective agreement.
The company has said the strike is taking place at a “very challenging time” for the industry, which is facing a market downturn due to low lumber prices and high costs because of softwood lumber duties.