“We’re going to have a long dry summer, I mean just look, it’s a fire waiting to happen.”
That was how NDP MLA Scott Fraser described what he was seeing as he toured a cut block between Port Alberni and Lake Cowichan Wednesday.
It is where massive, valuable logs have been sitting untouched for up to two years in some places in tenures held by Western Forest Products.
“It’s rotting. It’s a fire hazard in what could be another bad fire season and there’s over a hundred workers who should be at work and they’re not so it’s impacting the local economy,” Fraser told CHEK News.
The mayor of Port Alberni Mike Ruttan is also concerned.
“When I see this wood lying on the ground here I see jobs. I see economic activity that isn’t happening that could be happening,” said Ruttan.
The United Steelworkers Union took several people on a tour of the site two hours by logging road south of Port Alberni.
The union says the issue is a rate dispute between Western Forest Products and its contractor Island Pacific Logging.
“They’ve already squeezed every cent out of Island Pacific Logging the contractor and now they’re trying to get it out of the worker and they’re holding the workers, the community, everybody at bay,” said Norm Macleod, President of United Steelworkers Local 1-85.
The union says it is in the middle of a multi year collective agreement with Western but that the company is using this dispute to try for new concessions from the workers.
Meanwhile, all the wood continues to sit there.
The union estimates there is about 70,000 cubic metres of logs left on the forest floor equating to about 2000 highway logging trucks.
“It starts devaluating this time of year, it starts getting the bugs in it and soon the mills won’t even want it,” said Macleod.
Macleod says when the trees were cut the wood was worth about $7million dollars but in a statement to CHEK News the company says the logs will be brought in when the dispute is resolved and that there is no devaluation of the logs.
The NDP is calling on the Liberals to get involved and Port Alberni just wants to see the workers back on the job.