Seed World

Canadian Port Strike Could Have Far-Reaching Impacts

As of July 1 workers at some of British Columbia’s busiest ports headed to the picket lines. The strike includes 7,200 port workers at roughly 30 B.C. ports, who are members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and employed by the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA). It’s leading to cargo bottlenecks for ports along the West Coast.

“The BCMEA 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 said in a July 3 news release.

In the BCMEA news release, the employer noted ILWU Canada wants to expand workers’ scope and re-define Regular Maintenance Work beyond what is in an industry-wide agreement.

“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,” the release said.

BCMEA said as of July 1 it views that a continuation of bargaining at this time isn’t going to produce a collective agreement.

On June 28, ILWU issued the 72-hour strike notice stating it is seeking a fair deal that respects Longshore workers and that negotiations have been ongoing since February.

“We are seeking recognition for the hard work and sacrifices that Longshore Workers made during the pandemic and the extraordinary work that Longshore Locals did in getting workers out to the terminals during the lockdowns,” ILWU President Rob Ashton said in the strike notice release.

The union stated its main objectives are:

  • To stop the erosion of their members’ work through contracting out
  • To protect current and future generations from the devastating impacts of port automation
  • To protect longshore workers from record high inflation and sky rocketing cost of living

“We remain committed to negotiate an end to this dispute that respects Longshore Workers and we call on the BCMEA to drop all concessions and get serious about negotiating with the Union in good faith,” Ashton said.

In a June 30 news release Fertilizer Canada stressed how detrimental the strike could be, stating the Port of Vancouver is critical to overseas shipments of potash fertilizer.

“The transportation of fertilizer and its application rely on careful timing and any interruption can jeopardize crop yields and global food security,” the release said.