A fundraiser in support of the Franklin Division loggers who have been out of work since Dec. 22, 2015 is happening at the Blue Marlin Inn on Thursday, June 30.
More than 100 loggers are out of work due to a rate dispute between Western Forest Products and their woodlands contractor, Island Pacific Logging.
After six months of being laid off the loggers will no longer be covered with medical benefits, Norm MacLeod, United Steelworkers 1-85 president said. Thus a fundraiser was planned in conjunction with Port Alberni mayor Mike Ruttan and former mayor Ken McRae.
“Mayor Mike Ruttan called me and Ken McRae… and said what can we do to help, so we started talking about a fundraising effort and they got the Blue Marlin involved,” MacLeod said.
MacLeod said Ruttan has shown empathy for the unemployed loggers and has been quite involved in trying to get them back to work.
The fundraiser is from 4–8 p.m. in the Blue Marlin Inn parking lot. Festivities will include kids’ activities, a celebrity dunk tank, barbecue pork dinner for $15, or a hotdog and pop for $5. There will also be music from Loggers’ Stomp with the Maloomba Boogie Band from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. for $15. Silent and loonie twoonie auctions will also be available.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Local-185 to help pay for the unemployed loggers’ medical benefits that run out at the end of June. “When you’re laid off, after six months [benefits] stop.”
Western Forest Products and the Franklin River crew are still in mediation and discussions to when loggers will be back at work are still going back and forth. There has yet to be a court proceeding.
MacLeod said members of the crew are still struggling financially and some have decided to leave town to work in camps in order to make ends meet.
“They’d much rather be at home, that’s the lifestyle they lived. Even if they are working they’re not exceptionally happy except there’s money coming in. They’d rather be at home with their families,” MacLeod said.
While some loggers search for work elsewhere, several remain in the Valley living off their savings.
“They didn’t save their money for this, it’s savings for retirement and other things,” MacLeod said.