ILWU poised to take vote on deal in BC ports strike

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by Emily Atkins

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada will take a ratification vote on the contract proposal that was agreed to on July 13th.

The tentative deal was reached between the striking ILWU and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA). Thirty British Columbia ports, including Vancouver and Prince Rupert, have been affected by the strike by 7,400 members of the union.

The union has said it will hold a Stop Work meeting at 8:00 am (Pacific time) on Tuesday, July 25 to recommend the deal to its members. A vote will happen sometime after that.

The union has not said why it reversed its decision to recommend the deal to members.

“The tentative agreement presented is the result of months of negotiations and mediation; we are hopeful that the voting membership, like the ILWU Caucus Leadership and Bargaining Committee, will support the fair and equitable deal as recommended by the senior federal mediator,” BCMEA said in a statement.

After the strike action from July 1 to 13 had concluded with a tentative agreement between the ILWU Canada and the BCMEA, disruptions resumed on 18 July when ILWU Canada released a statement that their caucus had voted down the Canadian federal mediator’s recommended terms of settlement. This resulted in cargo operation shutdowns at the ports again on July 18 and 19.

A subsequent ruling by the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) resulted in labour’s return to work on 19 July, followed by ILWU Canada issuing a new 72-hour notice of strike action effective 22 July 2023. The union then retracted the 72-hour notice.

Work has resumed at the affected ports. The Port of Vancouver is implementing its recovery plan. Recovery measures include collaboration and monitoring to ensure port resources are assigned to best support time-sensitive cargo movement and ensure equitable distribution of shared resources, the port said.

According to the port’s operational update on July 21, eight container vessels are at berth and 11 are awaiting entry into the port’s jurisdiction.

Shipping line Maersk said in a customer update that while some progress had been made on processing the cargo that had built up during the work stoppages, a backlog still exists. The ports of Vacouver and Prince Rupert “represent the two of the highest export dwelling locations by container volume in our network. Prince Rupert has one of our highest import dwelling locations. We will be working to ensure we have adequate capacity to service customer needs into the Pacific Northwest in the weeks to come as operations begin to normalize,” the line said.

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) reiterated its call for reforms that would make critical transportation infrastructure, like ports, essential.

“We are closely watching the situation and remain hopeful for a successful resolution,” said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of CME.

“However, manufacturers and our economy cannot continue to withstand these disruptions that are severely impacting our sector. We need the federal government to seriously consider measures to ensure stability in manufacturing.”