Western Canada dock workers vote to accept contract offer

Source: Reuters; CBCNews; Vancouver Sun
Date: 5th August 2023

Dock workers in western Canada voted to accept an improved labor contract after a month-long dispute that affected trade and disrupted operations at the country’s busiest ports, their union said on Friday.

The vote was 74.66% in favor of the terms of the settlement, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) said in a statement.

Disagreements in contract negotiations have disrupted billions of dollars in trade, raising concerns about fueling inflation.

The union provisionally agreed to a new contract on Sunday, averting an immediate strike, but the agreement needed to be approved by workers.

The government had directed the Canada Industrial Relations Board to resolve the dispute after workers rejected a previous contract. Ottawa was seeking to keep two of Canada’s three busiest ports – Vancouver and Prince Rupert – open.

Canada’s Minister Of Labour and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) confirmed that the ILWU had ratified the deal.

“The renewed collective agreement includes increases in wages, benefits and training that recognizes the skills and efforts of B.C.’s waterfront workforce while providing certainty and stability for the future of Canada’s West Coast ports,” the BCMEA said in a statement.

Canada’s Minister Of Labour said he had directed federal officials to review how a disruption on this scale unfolded, in order to ensure stability in the future and ensure a disruption of this scale does not affect Canada’s supply chain again.

Canada’s Minister Of Labour’s office said Saturday that details of this review have yet to be determined.

Business groups welcomed the deal but called on the federal government to come up with new ways to deal with such disputes.

“Our supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link,” the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Vice President said in a statement.

“Following over 35 days of disruption to our West Coast ports, it’s time for Government to consider providing new tools that can be used in the face of labour disputes in sectors that are critical to Canada’s supply chain.”

The ILWU, which represents about 7,500 dock workers, had been negotiating for months with the BCMEA.

Disagreements over pay and a proposal to expand the union’s jurisdiction to regular maintenance work on terminals led to a 13-day strike in July.

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