B.C. port union to recommend settlement agreement to its members

B.C. port union to recommend settlement agreement to its members
A transport truck carries a cargo container to the Centerm Container Terminal at port in Vancouver, on Friday, July 14, 2023. The uncertainty at British Columbia ports continues as the union representing about 7,400 workers and their employers remain without a deal in what one labour expert calls a

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada said Friday it will meet next week to recommend the terms of a tentative agreement to its membership.

The development may end the labour dispute between the union and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association, which shut down provincial port facilities for 13 days earlier this month.

Union president Rob Ashton said in a written statement that members will take the 8 a.m. shift off next Tuesday for the meeting where the deal will be presented.

News of a possible agreement broke late Thursday as the union’s Local 502 said on its website that the union would hold an “emergency contract caucus” Friday to decide if the deal would be sent to a full-membership vote for ratification or rejection.

The two sides have been negotiating a new collective agreement since March but reached an impasse despite the aid of a federal mediator, triggering the strike from July 1 to July 13.

The job action by about 7,400 workers froze billions of dollars’ worth of goods at Canada’s key West Coast import and export points.

In a tweet sent moments after the union announcement, federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan thanked the union for sending the terms of the agreement to a vote.

“Right now, B.C. ports are operating, but we need long-term stability,” he said.

The announcement capped a tumultuous week in the dispute, which saw the union’s caucus reject the tentative agreement that had been worked out with a mediator, setting off a brief strike before a Canada Industrial Relations Board ruled the job action was illegal.

The union then issued 72-hour notice to restart the strike on Saturday, only to rescind it hours later.

The situation triggered vocal responses from both political and business leaders across Canada, with some, including Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, calling for back-to-work legislation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened an incident response group over the uncertainty at B.C. ports, saying it was unacceptable that the union rejected the tentative deal that had been agreed to by negotiators on both sides.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2023. 

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