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More than 7,400 port workers now on strike across B.C.


Port workers across British Columbia formally went on strike on Saturday after negotiations supported by federal mediators failed to produce a deal to keep more than 7,000 employees on the job.

The BC Maritime Employers Association issued a statement saying talks with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada took place throughout the night, but negotiators were unable to secure an agreement and workers walked off the job in the morning.

“Over the course of the past couple of days, the BCMEA has continued to advance proposals and positions in good faith, with the objective of achieving a fair deal at the table,” the statement read. “Our Bargaining Committee has made repeated efforts to be flexible and find compromise on key priorities, but regrettably, the Parties have yet to be successful in reaching a settlement.”

The union served a 72-hour strike notice on Wednesday. In an email to CTV News Saturday, the union said it was still tied up in bargaining negotiations.



Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said Saturday the parties continue to negotiate, adding “the best deals for both parties are reached at the table.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said it's “very concerned” about the strike action, urging all involved parties to cut a deal “as quickly as possible.”

“A strike could have serious consequences for our economy and our small businesses. Port operations must remain fluid so as not to exacerbate supply chain disruptions and put further pressure on costs, at a time when we are still facing high inflation,” the federation said Saturday. “It's important to remember that strike-related delays can be costly for small businesses, which could lose sales as a result.”

Matthew Holmes, the senior vice president of policy and governmental relations with The Canadian Chamber of Commerce echoed the CFIB’s sentiments. Holmes said the strike will “inflict serious damage” to the Canadian economy.

“If there was a week of disruption at the west coast ports, that’s going to be over five and a half billion dollars of disrupted trade for the Canadian economy,” he said.

Peter Hall, a professor of urban studies at Simon Fraser University, doesn’t think the strike will significantly impact inflation.

“It’s really hard to see how you can make the argument that a short term disruption leads to never ending inflation,” he said.

Those who rely on the port to get goods in and out of the country say they’re not as optimistic. Jordan Atkins, the vice president of the logistics firm WTC Group, said the company has put contingency plans in place, but said some commodities can’t be moved via truck or rail.

“If this job action continues this week, we’re going to be looking at about a 90 per cent reduction in WTC’s inbound and outbound traffic overall,” he told CTV News.

Christina Burridge, the executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance said she’d like to see a decision sooner rather than later. “The worst case scenario if this goes on for weeks and weeks is we would have to tell our crews to stop fishing because there would be nowhere to put it, to wait for shipment out,” she said.


The strike affects about 7,400 terminal cargo loaders and 49 of the province's waterfront employers at more than 30 B.C. ports.

In early June ,99.24 per cent of union membership voted in favour of strike action.

The ILWU did not provide a 72-hour strike notice on June 21, the earliest possible date for such an action after receiving the authorization vote from its members.

That notice came instead on June 28, with the ILWU issuing a statement at the time that accused the employers' association of demanding “major concessions” from the union despite “record profits during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The strike notice came nearly three months after the last contract expired on March 30.

The union also said it was seeking to protect members from the “erosion” of work stemming from outside contract workers and port automation.

The association represents 49 private-sector employers operating in B.C. ports, and its website says the industry contributes $2.7 billion to Canada's GDP while handling roughly 16 per cent of the country's total traded goods, amounting to $180 billion in 2020.

On Friday both the union and employer confirmed the strike would not affect cruise ships docked in Vancouver, Prince Rupert or Vancouver Island.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2023.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Isabella Zavarise Top Stories

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