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Job action at B.C. ports continues

July 5, 2023  By  Jennifer Ellson

Photo: Annex Business Media.

More than 7,000 port workers – members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) have been on strike since Sat., July 1. Contract talks between the union and the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) broke down on Mon., July 3.

“While the union was at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service waiting for a response from the employer, we received a message from the mediators that the BCMEA walked away from the table,” ILWU Canada president Rob Ashton said in a statement.

“The union delivered a message to the federal mediators that the union will not walk away from negotiations, we are available every day, at any hour of the day. We expressed to the mediators our disappointment that the BCMEA had abandoned talks.”

In a statement, BCMEA said it has continued to advance reasonable proposals and positions in good faith with the urgent objective of making progress, reaching a fair deal, and ensuring ports are open and supply chains are stable and reliable.


“Rather than work towards an equitable deal, ILWU Canada seems to have entrenched their positions. The BCMEA has gone as far as possible on core issues,” BCMEA’s statement said.

The union stated that in an effort to find a way forward, the ILWU Canada bargaining committee met with federal mediators on Tues., July 4.

“We proposed a meeting with four of our direct employers to discuss with them directly a possible solution to the maintenance issue in the hopes of moving these negotiations forward.”

The union said it supports B.C. Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan’s call to immediately return to the bargaining table and remain until a deal is reached. In tweet on Tuesday, O’Regan said, “Federal mediators continue to support BCMEA and ILWU in their negotiations. We encourage both parties to immediately return to the bargaining table and remain there until a deal is reached. Collective bargaining is hard work but it’s how the best, most resilient deals are made.”

In response, the union said, “We call on the BCMEA to get back to the table and do the hard work necessary to reach an agreement. If the association will not negotiate, we call on the member employers to negotiate directly with the union. A negotiated settlement is possible, and we are capable of getting the job done.” 

The union explained that the key issue holding up a deal is the contracting out of maintenance work by employers. It added that BCMEA and its member companies had refused to agree on a regular maintenance document that is complete except for one sentence.

BCMEA said in a statement that ILWU Canada is “attempting to aggressively expand their scope and re-define Regular Maintenance Work far beyond what is set out in the industry-wide agreement, which has been legally well established for decades. Changing this definition would result in immediate and significant impacts to terminal operations. Under the current collective agreement, the ILWU exclusively supplies the labour force, however, it has been consistently unable to fulfill the trades work they have jurisdiction over. Further, ILWU Canada’s proposals for compensation are unreasonable, and well outside the established norm of union settlements in Canada.”

Click here to read BCMEA’s full statement.

Click here to read ILWU Canada’s full statement.



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