B.C. port strike: Labour minister tells mediator to pitch deal in bid to break impasse

Click to play video: 'Step made towards an end to B.C. port strike'
Step made towards an end to B.C. port strike
A step has been made towards a deal in the B.C. port strike. Jordan Amstrong has the breaking news details. – Jul 11, 2023

There may be movement towards an end to the bitter labour dispute that has shut down B.C.’s ports.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan sent a letter to the lead federal negotiator in the strike Tuesday to trigger section 105(2) of the Canada Labour Code, which allows them to make recommendations for a settlement of the dispute.

Sources say the mediator feels there is a deal to be made, but that at this point neither side is moving towards it.

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However, the federal team feels they can craft a deal both parties would sign, and the minister has asked them to draft the proposed agreement, sources told Global News.

“As a result of the hard work by the parties at the bargaining table, there is a good deal within reach – one that would work for both the employer and the union,” O’Regan said in a statement.

“I immediately asked that the mediators send a written recommendation of the terms of settlement to me within 24 hours. Once I have received the terms of settlement, I will forward them to the parties and they will have 24 hours to decide whether or not to recommend ratification of the terms to their principals.”

The B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) confirmed it had recieved correspondence from O’Regan’s office and was waiting on details of the proposal.

Click to play video: 'B.C. port strike impact on small business'
B.C. port strike impact on small business

Talks between more than 7,400 cargo loaders with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and the BCMEA resumed Saturday after breaking down last week.

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The union has accused the employer of demanding “major concessions” from the union despite “record profits during the COVID-19 pandemic,” while the employer has accused workers of making unreasonable pay demands “well outside the established norm of union settlements in Canada.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. port strike causing headaches for local companies'
B.C. port strike causing headaches for local companies

Who performs maintenance work at the port has also been a crucial sticking point, with the union accusing the employer of eroding their jurisdiction by bringing in contract workers.

The employers’ association has argued the union is trying to “aggressively expand” its control of maintenance duties far beyond an agreement that the association says has been “legally well established for decades.”

The strike has ground critical Canadian supply chains to a halt and cost the national economy an estimated $500 million per day.

That has drawn calls from business groups, several premiers and opposition politicians to press the government to step in and end the dispute.

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-With files from the Canadian Press

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