(Photo courtesy CBC)

A tentative agreement has been reached in a labour dispute that threatened to shut down all ports in British Columbia, costing the Canadian economy billions of dollars every day.

A spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union says the tentative deal came together after all-night bargaining with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association.

About 6,500 longshore workers at ports from Metro Vancouver to Prince Rupert had already begun to set up picket lines as a lockout notice issued by the association expired Thursday morning.

Automation was a key issue in the talks, with the employers’ association saying it would protect and enhance jobs while the union countered that automation would “decimate” ports and harm workers.

Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu arrived in Vancouver Wednesday and issued a statement saying she was available to both parties and calling on both sides to keep talking and “negotiate an agreement as soon as possible.”

Union President Rob Ashton describes the tentative agreement as fair and balanced, although no details of the pact will be released until ratification votes are held by union members.FacebookTwittergoogle_plusShare

The Canadian Press