More than 7,000 B.C. port workers now on strike

Click to play video: 'Job action shuts down B.C. ports and terminals'
Job action shuts down B.C. ports and terminals
WATCH: More than 7,000 port workers in B.C. continued their strike for a second day on Sunday, threatening Canada’s supply chain. Pressure is mounting on the federal government to be more assertive in putting an end to the strike. David Akin reports – Jul 1, 2023

As of 9 a.m. Saturday, more than 7,000 B.C.’s port workers are on strike.

In a statement issued at 8 a.m. Wednesday, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) said workers were prepared to walk off the job as talks broke down between the two sides.

Bargaining between the ILWU and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) has been ongoing since February. Their collective agreement expired on March 31.

Saturday morning, BCMEA issued a statement regarding the job action.

“Over the course of the past couple of days, the BCMEA has continued to advance proposals and positions in good faith, with the objective of achieving a fair deal at the table,” staff said in a release.

“Our bargaining committee has made repeated efforts to be flexible and find compromise on key priorities, but regrettably, the parties have yet to be successful in reaching a settlement.”

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On Friday afternoon, Seamus O’Regan, the Minister for Labour, said in a tweet that he met with both parties in Vancouver and encouraged them to keep working towards a deal.

“Everyone understands what’s at stake here,” he said.

Experts say what’s at stake is “major damage” to Canada’s economy.

Ports in Vancouver and Prince Rupert are “pivotal” for Canadian trade, UBC Sauder School of Business professor Werner Antweiler said earlier this week.

Some $800 million worth of goods flow into and out of Canada through B.C.’s ports every day, he added, representing roughly a quarter of the country’s total imports and exports.

“These ports are critical infrastructure. They are a bottleneck for our economy that we all rely on,” he told Global News. “If they go offline for any number of days, it will lead to costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

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More than 30 B.C. ports and 49 employers on the waterfront will be disrupted by the work stoppage.

Click to play video: 'Delta mayor renews calls for dedicated port police'
Delta mayor renews calls for dedicated port police

The union representing the cargo workers said it is seeking a deal that protects their jobs, and offers recognition for the hard work and sacrifices that longshore workers made during the pandemic.

According to the union, the main objectives are:

  • to stop the erosion of work by contracting out
  • to protect current and future generations from the devastating impacts of port automation
  • to protect longshore workers from record-high inflation and the skyrocketing cost of living

The B.C. Maritime Employers Association said Friday any potential strike would not affect cruise ships docking in Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Vancouver Island.

Global News has reached out to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada for comment.

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More to come…

– with files from Global News’ Craig Lord

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