B.C. forestry sector calls for end to port strike

Another industry critical to B.C.’s economy is joining the chorus calling for an end to the port strike.

As workers hit the picket line for an eighth day, the forestry sector fears losing billions of dollars of product and damaging its international export relationships.

“In the short term, they are just stacking up inventories but that cannot last very long,” said Kurt Niquidet with the B.C. Council of Forestry Industries. “If the strike goes on that will be a major issue.”

The strike has now lasted over a week after negotiations stalled on Monday, and the province’s forestry sector is now asking senior levels of government to step in.

Forestry employs about 50,000 people directly in the sector, and wood products represent 15 per cent of all cargo flowing through the Port of Vancouver.

More than $ 5 billion a year is shipped across the ocean to Asia.

“They get nervous, they want to make sure they have that stable, consistent supply,” said Niquidet.

Some forestry products can be stocked up or moved to the United States by April.

That is not the case for pulp — and the ongoing strike may soon mean some forestry workers are out of a job.

“The pulp is going to China, there are not a lot of alternatives,” explained Niquidet.

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The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and their employers are still a long way apart but are working with mediators.

Senior B.C. Government Officials are concerned about how long the strike has dragged on.

“What it sounds like is they are both ready to go to the table, and what they should do is exactly that,” said Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming.

The opposition, B.C. United, says the time for pleading is over.

“I don’t think most businesses in this situation like to be held hostage,” said B.C. United trade critic.

The strike has disrupted nearly $5-billion dollars of cargo in Canada since it started.