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B.C. ports on-off strike saga continues

July 20, 2023  By  Jennifer Ellson

Photo courtesy Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

The on-again, off-again job action of B.C. port workers continues to unfold as the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) representing about 7,400 workers suddenly rescinded a strike notice hours after issuing it.

On Tuesday, the port workers were back on the picket line after the union’s internal caucus rejected the mediated agreement between the union and the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA).

But the strike is illegal, according to Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan.

“The Canada Industrial Relations Board – an independent body created to keep industrial peace – this morning ruled that the ILWU Canada cease and desist from participating in any strike action because the union did not provide 72 hours notice. This strike is illegal,” O’Regan tweeted on Wednesday.


The ILWU said in a statement Wednesday that it had “removed” the strike notice it issued earlier that same day, but provided no reason and other details. Earlier, the union issued a 72-hour notice that member workers would relaunch a strike at B.C. ports Saturday morning,

The BCMEA said, “The past 24 hours have demonstrated that this continues to be a fluid and unpredictable situation. We will communicate as appropriate with key stakeholders as we receive clarification.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stepped up action, convening an incident response group typically gathered at times of national crisis or events with major implications for Canada.

The strike, which originally started on July 1 and ran for 13 days, had shut down more than 30 B.C. port terminals, prompting premiers like Alberta’s Danielle Smith, and industry groups such as the BC Council of Forest Industries to put an end to it once and for all.

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