International Steel Prices

Strike Looms Over Canada’s West Coast Ports

Written by Laura Miller

After failing to reach a new collective labor agreement, port workers on Canada’s West Coast are set to strike as of July 1.

transport coils

Bargaining talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), ongoing since February, have now stalled.

ILWU Canada workers have continued to work since expiration of their previous contract on March 31. The collective agreement covers 7,400 longshore workers and foremen at Canada’s West Coast ports.

The union says it has now run out of options at the bargaining table, as the BCMEA has “refused to negotiate on the main issues” and is demanding “major concessions.” Those issues include port automation, inflation and cost of living expenses, and contracting work out to non-union workers.

On June 28, ILWU Canada gave its 72-hour strike notice to the BCMEA and are making preparations to walk off the job at 8:00 a.m. PT on July 1.

BCMEA member companies “gorged themselves on record profits during the pandemic,” and are now refusing to reward the hard work ILWU workers showed by maintaining their work throughout the Covid-19 shutdowns, the union said.

“We remain committed to negotiate an end to this dispute that respects Longshore Workers and we call on the BCMEA to drop all concessions and get serious about negotiating with the union in good faith,” ILWU Canada said in a statement.

Despite the “regrettable development” of the strike notice, BCMEA said in a statement that it remains “ready to re-engage with our labor partners through the federal mediation process, with the desire of reaching a fair and balanced deal at the table that keeps our ports stable and goods flowing for Canadians. We continue to be open to any solution that brings both parties to a balanced agreement.”

The Port of Vancouver in British Columbia is the largest port that would be affected by a strike. It is Canada’s largest port and the fourth largest in North America in terms of tonnages handled, according to its website. In 2022, the Port handled 141 million metric tons of cargo, including 333,734 automobiles and 20 million metric tons of breakbulk cargo.

Recall that 22,000 ILWU-represented workers at 29 West Coast ports in the US reached a tentative labor agreement earlier this month. That deal is still going through the ratification process, which is expected to take a few months to complete.

By Laura Miller,

Laura Miller

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