B.C. port strike: Unionized workers vote to reject proposed contract settlement

Click to play video: 'Tentative B.C. port settlement rejected'
Tentative B.C. port settlement rejected
Late last night, the union representing thousands of workers at ports up and down the west coast announced their members had voted to reject a tentative deal for the second time. Kamil Karamali has the latest – Jul 29, 2023

In another chapter of the B.C. port strike, workers have now voted to reject a mediated contract offer, thereby possibly extending job action at some of Canada’s busiest ports.

In an announcement late Friday, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) president Rob Ashton said members have voted no to the contract and are calling on their employers to “come to the table and negotiate something that works” for its members and the industry.

The employer, the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), said it was disappointed to learn that the four-year tentative agreement was rejected, late Friday.

“The proposed four-year agreement was a good deal that recognized the skills and efforts of B.C.’s waterfront workforce while providing certainty and stability for the future of Canada’s West Coast ports,” BCMEA staff said in a release.

“ILWU Canada’s inability to ratify a fair and balanced recommended tentative agreement has left Canadians, businesses and the entire supply chain in a perilous state that has cost billions and will further hurt affordability and increase costs for Canadians.”

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BCMEA shared details of the four-year deal that was rejected by the union.

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It said the deal included a 19.2 per cent compounded wage increase, a signing bonus of $1.48 per hour worked to be paid to each employee, and an 18.5 per cent increase to a “Modernization and Mechanization” retirement lump sum payment.

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, more than half of Canadian small businesses have been negatively impacted during the strike.

Global News spoke with its vice president of national affairs, Saturday morning.

“(We) are very surprised, also worried … we don’t know what’s going to come next,” Jasmin Guenette said.

“Hopefully, the union will not issue another strike notice. Hopefully, port operations will continue to move on while negotiations are happening.”

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Guenette said if another strike comes to fruition, the federal government will have no choice but to step in.

“The federal government will have no choice but to introduce a back to work legislation,” he said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. port strike: Unionized workers vote to reject proposed contract settlement'
B.C. port strike: Unionized workers vote to reject proposed contract settlement

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan posted his comments through social media, Saturday.

“This state of uncertainty cannot continue. While our B.C. port are operating right now, we need long-term stability for the many workers and businesses that depend on them,” he said in a press release.

“As Minister of Labour, I am using my authorities under Section 107 of the Canada Labour Code to preserve industrial peace. I have directed the Canada Industrial Relations Board to determine whether the union’s rejection of the tentative agreement has elimite the possibility of a negotiated resolution.

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“If the Board determines that to be the case, I have directed them to either impose a new collective agreement on the parties or impose a final binding arbitration to resolve outstanding terms of the collective agreement.”

Last Friday, the ILWU said that it will recommend members accept a deal with the employer after the dispute between the union and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) shut down the province’s port facilities for 13 days earlier this month.

The earlier job action was serious enough that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened the government’s incident response group to discuss the matter, an occurrence typically reserved for moments of national crisis.

In the 13 days that workers were off the job previously, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade estimated $10 billion worth of traded goods were affected.

Global New has reached out to ILWU for additional comment.

-with files from The Canadian Press

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