B.C. port strike resumes as union walks away from tentative deal

Written by Nick Blenkey
Strikers prior to B.C. ports deal

IMAGE: Screen grab from CBC News video

Collective bargain works, until it doesn’t. The tentative deal between the British Columbia Marine Employers Association (BCMEA) and the ILWU Canada announced July 14, didn’t last long and striking workers were back on the picket lines yesterday as Canada’s longest running port strike resumed.

Yesterday, ILWU Canada, which did not submit the deal to its entire membership, said that its Longshore Caucus had rejected the deal.

“The ILWU Canada Longshore Caucus does not believe the recommendations had the ability to protect our jobs now or into the future,” said a union statement. “Our position since day one has been to protect our jurisdiction and this position has not changed.

“With the record profits that the BCMEA’s member companies have earned over the last few years the employers have not addressed the cost of living issues that our workers have faced over the last couple of years as all workers have.

“The term of the collective agreement that was given with today’s uncertain times, is far too long. We must be able to readdress the uncertainty in the world’s financial markets for our members.

“On July 18, 2023, as of 16:30 the ILWU Canada Longshore Division will be back on the picket line for a fair and negotiated collective agreement.”

What was in the tentatively agreed deal has thus far not become public.

At 8.20 a.m. PT, today, the BCMEA reported that the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) had convened a hearing at 9:30 pm on July 18 in response to the BCMEA’s application that the union had not provided 72 hours, strike notice as required by the Canada Labour Code.

“The CIRB ruled that the union was in violation of the Canada Labour Code by not providing 72 hours notice, and has ordered the union to cease and desist its illegal strike action effective immediately,” said the BCMEA.

Canada’s Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan Jr. repeated the news of the CIRB finding in a tweet. Subsequently, he and Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra, issued the following statement:

“Last week, after 13 days of work stoppage, Minister O’Regan asked federal mediators to provide recommendations on the terms of a settlement between the BCMEA and the ILWU Canada. Both parties tentatively agreed to this settlement to bring an end to the strike.

“Today, we received formal notice from the BCMEA that their membership had accepted this deal in full. However, we were also informed that, despite initially agreeing to recommend the Terms of Settlement, the ILWU Canada’s leadership had decided not to recommend ratification of the terms to their members.

“Workers and employers across Canada cannot face further disruption on the scale we saw last week. Therefore, we are looking at all options. We will have more to say on this tomorrow.

“We should not be here. The deal presented to the parties was the result of a constructive and substantive collective bargaining process. It represented a fair and balanced deal. It was informed by weeks of collective bargaining and drafted by third-party mediators in the interest of both the union and the employer.

“We have been patient. We have respected the collective bargaining process. But we need our ports operating.”

The costs of the B.C. port strike are mounting

“We are greatly concerned about the impacts the continuation of the strike will have on Canada’s international reputation as a reliable trade partner. In less than two weeks, business across Canada were facing shortages, temporary layoffs, and, in some cases, total shutdowns. The continuation of the strike will put these businesses at risk again,” said Greater Vancouver Board of Trade president and CEO, Bridgitte Anderson. “Unfortunately, we are beginning the process of restarting our Port Shutdown Calculator tool, which estimates a total of CAD 800 million in trade will be disrupted each day. We are renewing our call for an expedited resolution of this disruption. We need the federal government to be an active participant in finding a resolution to re-open our ports.”

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