BRITISH COLUMBIA - More than 3,000 Western Forest Products workers will leave the picket lines as the seven-month-long strike is finally over.
Last July we wrote about how 3,000 Western Forest employees walked off the job after negotiations between the company and the United Steelworkers union broke down.
With its members voting 98.8 percent in strike favor, the union sought a three-year deal to replace a recently-expired five-year deal. In early February, independent strike mediators reported they had given up trying to negotiate, as wages and benefits couldn't be agreed upon. Union members also couldn't accept the company's implementation of a new drug and alcohol policy, which the the union said was targeting employees for "simply having trace amounts of THC or marijuana in their system."
Monday's agreement - ratified by union members with 81.9 percent support - grants workers increases to life insurance and other benefits, health and safety language improvements, an allowance for safety boots, and a more relaxed drug and alcohol policy.
A union spokesperson said the union didn't achieve its goal of what it says are dangerous alternate shifts. Western Forest did however agree to conduct operational trials of safer shift schedules.
Western Forest CEO Don Demens said in a statement: "This has been a particularly challenging time and I'm pleased that we were able to find common ground through the efforts of all involved.'' 
Western Forest struggled financially throughout the strike's duration, suffering a $29.2 million net loss in the final quarter of 2019.
“In the fourth quarter, we continued to focus on limiting the impact of the USW strike on our customers and our financial position by managing our debt levels,” said Demens. “With terms of a tentative collective agreement reached with the USW, we look forward to bringing people back to work following the completion of the ratification process.”
The company generated revenue of $80.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, as compared to $284.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, and $141.6 million in the third quarter of 2019. It partially mitigated the impacts of the strike by selling unencumbered lumber and log inventories during the fourth quarter of 2019.
It is unclear when employees will return to work.

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