Longshore workers in Canada are once again on strike after a union division rejected a tentative deal with maritime employers that had ended a 13-day work stoppage earlier this month.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada on Tuesday announced its longshore caucus had voted down a settlement proposed by federal mediators, citing concerns over cost of living, work jurisdiction, and the contract’s length.
“The terms of the collective agreement that was given with today’s uncertain times, is far too long,” ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton said in the news release.
Ashton added the union’s longshore division would be back on the picket line as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Port of Vancouver said in a web update the strike action was affecting operations at four container terminals, though cruise and grain vessels continued to be serviced. The ports in Prince Rupert, Port Alberni, and Nanaimo did not immediately post updates on their website.
The new strike action comes after the contract bargaining teams from ILWU Canada and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association agreed on a tentative deal, and initially recommended approving it to their members. However, the tentative deal required ratification from members.
That’s when the deal broke down, according to a joint statement from Canada Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, shared Tuesday night on Twitter.
“Today, we received formal notice from the BCMEA that their membership had accepted this deal in full,” the statement reads. “However, we were also informed that, despite initially agreeing to recommend the Terms of the Settlement, the ILWU Canada’s leadership has decided not to recommend ratification to their members.”
The proposed deal had included wage hikes, specific provisions to address union concerns over work jurisdiction, measures to improve training, recruitment and retention of trades workers, a commitment to increase apprentices in the industry by 15%, benefits coverage for all casual trades workers, and a tool allowance, the BCMEA group said in a negotiations update on Tuesday.
The two ministers said they believed the deal was fair and served the interests of both unions and employers. They also emphasized the government had been patient with the negotiations, but Canada needed its ports to operate.
“Workers and employers across Canada cannot face further disruption on the scale we saw last week,” the statement read. “Therefore, we are looking at all options. We will have more to say on this tomorrow.”
We have been patient.
Canadians have been patient.
Every effort has been made.
But this cannot go on.
Statement from Minister Alghabra and me: pic.twitter.com/mVdbyLjEKA
— Seamus O’Regan Jr (@SeamusORegan) July 19, 2023