Date: Wednesday, July 5, 2023
Source: Splash 24/7
Day five of the port strikes across the Canadian west coast and the calls for the federal government to intervene are growing.
Talks between maritime employers and the union involved are deadlocked over maintenance work, both sides say.
Canada’s branch of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) started the strike on Saturday. The ILWU’s contract with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) ran out at the end of March with the union keen not to have a situation similar to the US west coast where contract negotiations carried on for more than a year after a previous labour agreement expired in the first half of 2022.
“The key issue that is holding up getting a deal is contracting out of ILWU maintenance work by member employers of the BCMEA and the refusal of the association and its member companies to agree on a regular maintenance document that is all but complete — except for one sentence,” the union claimed in a release.
“ILWU Canada is attempting to aggressively expand their scope and redefine regular maintenance work far beyond what is set out in the industry-wide agreement, which has been legally well established for decades,” the employers association responded.
The government in Ottawa is coming under pressure to act from exporters as well as politicians from landlocked provinces.
The CEO of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), Pierre Gratton, warned: “Canada’s reputation as a trusted producer of these materials is in question if we are unable to rely on our transportation networks to get them to market.
The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters said designating ports and rail lines as essential infrastructure and limiting when and where labour and other disruptions can occur would provide manufacturers the stability they need.
“A strike of this magnitude not only disrupts the Canadian economy but damages our global trading reputation, hurts already fragile supply chains, and puts jobs at risk,” the group said in a statement.
Alberta’s transport minister wants the federal government to recall parliament to consider back-to-work legislation that would end a strike at British Columbia ports.
Minister of transportation and economic corridors Devin Dreeshen pointed out Ottawa used legislation in 2021 to end a walkout by Port of Montreal dockworkers after one day.
In a statement responding to calls for back-to-work legislation, federal labour minister Seamus O’Regan’s office reiterated that it’s “not looking past the bargaining table, because the best deals are made at the table.”