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Forestry workers on Vancouver Island are on strike after voting overwhelmingly in favour of walking out on employer Western Forest Products (WFP).

The United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 members gave the company 72 hours strike notice late Friday afternoon. The strike action began Monday at 4 p.m.

The strike is affecting five Western Forest Products sawmills and several sorting facilities across the island including Cowichan Bay and Kelsey Bay.

USW Local president Brian Butler said 2,600 union members and contractors are off the job pending mediation with the company.

The union's grievances range from issues with wages, vacation allotments, pensions and company drug and alcohol screening policies.

Representatives from Western Forest Products met with the union Monday in an attempt to delay the strike action, to no avail.

"This action was not taken lightly and was strategically made in order to apply maximum pressure on WFP," Butler said in a union notice Monday.

"WFP must seriously address the membership’s proposals, remove all of their concessions entirely, as well as rescind all of their cancellation letters regarding local agreements and practices."

The strike votes were registered at a series of meetings in June, with 98.8 per cent of union members voting to walk out.

B.C. Forestry minister Doug Donaldson called the dispute "unfortunate" Tuesday. 

"We recognize this is a difficult situation on workers, their families and the community," Donaldson said.

"It is my hope the two parties can come together to achieve an agreeable solution that allows workers to get back to work, and Western Forest Products to return to full production.”

The last time the union workers were on strike was in 2007, when the strike lasted three months.