Further negotiations won’t bring end to B.C. port workers strike, employer says

Further negotiations won't bring end to B.C. port workers strike, employer says
An International Longshore and Warehouse Union worker pickets outside of the BC Maritime Employers Association Dispatch Centre after a 72-hour strike notice and no agreement made on the bargaining table in Vancouver, on Saturday, July 1, 2023.

The association representing employers in an ongoing strike at British Columbia ports says it doesn’t think more bargaining is going to produce a collective agreement.

The BC Maritime Employers Association released a statement Monday afternoon saying it had gone as far as possible on core issues.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, representing thousands of workers who load and unload cargo at terminals at more than 30 B.C. ports, walked off the job Saturday morning.

Both sides negotiated over the weekend and were at the table earlier in the day on Monday.

The association said it has advanced “reasonable proposals and positions in good faith” but said the union refuses to budge.

“ILWU Canada went on strike over demands that were and continue to be outside any reasonable framework for settlement. Given the foregoing mentioned, the BCMEA is of the view that a continuation of bargaining at this time is not going to produce a collective agreement,” the statement read.

“ILWU Canada needs to decide if they are going to continue this strike with no hope of settlement, or significantly modify their position so a fair and balanced deal can be reached.”

Union representatives could not immediately be reached for comment, but had previously accused the employers association of demanding “major concessions” despite amassing what the union described as record profits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The strike led businesses organizations to issue warnings about wide-reaching implications across the country, with some pushing for the federal government to step in with back-to-work legislation.

The union, meanwhile, warned Ottawa not to interfere.

On Sunday, union president Rob Ashton suggested the employers association wanted Ottawa to step in. He said if that happened “there will never be labour peace on the waterfront.”

That same day, federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said the focus of negotiations “needs to be on the table.”

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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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