B.C. port strike: What to know as disruption stretches into day 4

Click to play video: 'Talks stalled in B.C. port strike'
Talks stalled in B.C. port strike
WATCH: Talks have broken off on day 4 of the B.C. port workers' strike, while the federal labour minister is calling for the two sides to return to the bargaining table and stay there until a deal is reached. Neetu Garcha has the latest and Keith Baldrey has the inside scoop on the numbers at the bargaining table. – Jul 4, 2023

While some Canadians were lighting off fireworks and relaxing with friends over the Canada Day long weekend, longshoremen staffing some of the busiest ports in British Columbia were taking to the picket lines.

A strike among more than 7,000 cargo loaders at roughly 30 B.C. ports is stretching into its fourth day on Tuesday.

A stymying of trade at the ports is significant — an estimated 25 per cent of Canada’s imports and exports flows through the Port of Vancouver and other marine gateways along the west coast — with experts saying a prolonged strike could do “major damage” to the economy.

Where do talks stand?

While both the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) remain at the table as workers attempt to negotiate better pay and job security against contracting out labour, the latest developments on Monday show talks might have hit a roadblock.

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The BCMEA said it no longer believes it can find a deal at the bargaining table, accusing ILWU of having “entrenched their positions” and calling demands for compensation unreasonable.

Union leadership has accused the employers of negotiating in bad faith, and has argued workers ought to share in “record high profits” at the ports.

“We hope the Association is not hiding behind the threat of back-to-work legislation and binding arbitration to avoid engaging in bargaining with the Union,” said ILWU president Rob Ashton in a statement late Monday.

Click to play video: 'Pressure mounts on federal government as B.C. port strike enters 2nd day'
Pressure mounts on federal government as B.C. port strike enters 2nd day

Will the government legislate longshoremen back to work?

UBC Sauder School of Business professor Werner Antweiler told Global News last week that the federal and provincial governments likely would not wait more than two weeks into a strike before acting and potentially legislating striking longshoremen back to work, given the potential economic impact as shipping containers pile up at B.C. ports.

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Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr. and federal mediators are on the ground in Vancouver as negotiations continue. O’Regan said in a tweet over the weekend that “the best deals are reached” at the table and that the focus should be on bargaining.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, warning of the impacts of supply chain disruptions on costs for small businesses and consumers, called on the government to introduce legislation to “ensure that port activities are fully maintained even in the event of a strike” in a statement over the weekend.

Parliament rose for an end to the summer session on June 22. The House of Commons would need to be recalled before any potential legislation to end the strike could be tabled.

— with files from Global News’ Amy Judd

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