B.C. port workers union rejects deal, strike back on, say employers

B.C. port workers union rejects deal, strike back on, say employers

The union representing British Columbia’s port workers has rejected a mediator’s tentative agreement that had ended strike action last week.

Rob Ashton, the president of the International Longshore Workers Union Canada, says in a statement that its caucus does not believe the deal can protect jobs “now or into the future.”

Ashton also says the four-year agreement is “far too long” given the uncertainties in the industry and the economy overall.

He says workers were going back on picket lines at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The BC Maritime Employers Association says ILWU Canada rejected the deal without sending it to a full membership vote.

The 13-day strike that ended last Thursday involved about 7,400 port workers at more than 30 port terminals and other sites across the province.

The employers group says the rejected deal was “fair and comprehensive,” with hikes in wages and benefits above the 10 per cent increases workers had received over the past three years.

In a written statement, the office of federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan says it cannot comment on the ratification process between the two parties until he receives formal notice from both sides.

The strike froze billions of dollars worth of cargo from moving in and out of harbours, including at Canada’s busiest port in Vancouver.

“Our position since day one has been to protect our jurisdiction and this position has not changed,” the union statement said.

“With the record profits that the BCMEA’s member companies have earned over the last few years the employers have not addressed the cost of living issues that our workers have faced over the last couple of years as all workers have.”

The employers association said the package “could not satisfy some of ILWU internal caucus leadership.”

“In rejecting this tentative agreement, ILWU leadership is choosing to further harm Canada’s economy, international reputation and most importantly, to Canadians, their livelihoods and all those that rely on a stable supply chain,” it said.

Chuck Chiang, The Canadian Press

This story by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2023. 

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