Labour talks at Port of Vancouver are stalled

Labour talks at Port of Vancouver are stalled
May 15, 2024

ILWU Local 514 is “protracting negotiations,” the BC Maritime Employers Association says

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Workers at the Port of Vancouver, which in 2020 handled about 35 million metric tonnes of grain, could be headed towards a strike or a lockout.

The BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Ship and Dock Foremen Local 514 (ILWU Local 514), have been negotiating a new deal affecting about 730 workers since September 2023.

But talks have seemed to hit an impasse, as on May 10 the BCMEA announced it filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

“Despite the BCMEA’s best efforts, ILWU Local 514 has been protracting negotiations, putting Canada’s supply chain and our global trade reputation further at risk,” the organization said in a statement.

Both parties are legally in a strike or lockout position. But as of May 14, neither party has received notice of any disruptions.

Politicians are watching the situation closely.

Prior to the BCMEA’s complaint, on May 6, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau urging his government to be ready to respond to this situation, and the looming strike at CN and CPKC.

“A work stoppage would effectively shut down Canadian logistics networks, disrupting th movement of essential goods throughout North America,” she said in her letter. “In the event of a work stoppage, your government must be prepared to use all the tools at its disposal to terminate it rapidly, including, if necessary, back-to-work legislation.”

This potential work stoppage at the Port of Vancouver comes less than a year after workers there walked off the job.

The strike, which took place over two weeks in July 2023, saw more than 7,000 dock workers walk off the job. That strike did upwards of $10 billion of economic damage, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s port shutdown calculator showed.

During that strike, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan tasked a federal mediator to come up with recommended terms to end the stoppage.

While responding to questions about the CN and CPKC situation on May 3 of this year, the minister reiterated that the best deals are made while negotiating together.

“Anybody who saw how I worked in Vancouver last year on the West Coast, I think has a clear idea that I am serious when I say that the best deals are made at the table,” he said. “They have to be made at the table. They have to be made between those unions and those employers.”