B.C. Terminals and Longshoremen Reach Labor Agreement

Port of Vancouver, B.C. (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 05-30-2019 06:04:12

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) has reached an agreement with the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), narrowly avoiding a shutdown at most major port facilities along Canada's west coast. 

Making good on its earlier warnings, BCMEA initiated a lockout at 0800 hours on Thursday, shutting more than 6,000 longshoremen in B.C. out of the province's marine terminals and prompting longshoremen to set up picket lines. The lockout was lifted within hours as the two sides reached a tentative agreement, and work was set to resume normally on Thursday afternoon. The ILWU has withdrawn a pending strike notice. 

The estimated economic cost of a full port shutdown in British Columbia would have been about $5 billion per day, according to the BCMEA. 

Negotiations between the ILWU and the BCMEA began 18 months ago, and worker protections related to port automation were the primary hurdle in the talks. "The effects that automated terminals could have not only on my work force but on the communities they live in, the ramifications are massive," ILWU Canada president Robert Ashton told CBC earlier this week.

The two sides said that they are hopeful that the deal will bring this round of collective bargaining to a successful conclusion. "We appreciate the efforts of both parties to focus on reaching agreement and ensuring B.C. ports remain open for business," said BCMEA chairman Jeff Scott in a statement. "We are confident that this agreement, once signed, will secure a positive long-term outlook for trade and operations."

The deal still has to be ratified by the ILWU's membership, and the union said that it would not be providing more details until after that process was complete. 

The tensions did not affect the Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C., according to local media. The local ILWU hall told the Cranbrook Townsman that operations continued as normal in Prince Rupert, which is a rapidly-growing hub for containerized import cargo, despite the BCMEA's decision to shut down members' terminals.