Talks resume in BC ports strike

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by Emily Atkins

Talks resumed Saturday in the contract negotiation between the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union as the port workers’ strike entered it eighth day.

Talks broke down on July 3, and the two sides resorted to a war of words.

The strike action by 7,400 ILWU workers is affecting 30 British Columbia ports, including Vancouver – Canada’s largest – and Prince Rupert.

The union is primarily looking for movement from BCMEA on maintenance contracting out and wages. The employers’ association says the union has been unable to meet the demand for labour.

In a statement on July 8, the BCMEA said talks had resumed with the help of federal mediators. It said it had tabled a new proposal
to resolve skilled trades shortages and address ILWU Canada’s demand to expand its jurisdiction over regular maintenance work on terminals. According to the BCMEA statement, the revised proposal includes additional language that opened the door for ILWU Canada to perform new work outside of the union’s jurisdiction.

The BCMEA has committed to increase benefits for casual trade persons; increase industry apprenticeships by a minimum of 15 percent; and create a tool allowance benefit for industry trades workers.

The proposal also includes the creation of a joint Maintenance Review sub-committee chaired by an independent arbitrator, to make recommendations to improve training, recruitment and retention of ILWU Canada trades workers; create binding industry guidance which defines which tasks, jobs and duties are defined as regular maintenance work; and if the chair concludes that the work in question is not Regular Maintenance Work, they may include non-binding recommendations to help parties consider whether members of ILWU Canada bargaining unit could perform some or all of the maintenance work in question.

The ILWU has not responded publicly to the proposal, although the BCMEA said in its statement that the union had “rejected these ideas to date and instead, continue to propose to aggressively expand their jurisdiction.”