Canada to Investigate Disruptive 2023 West Coast Longshore Strike

Vancouver port
Cargo operations were stopped for nearly two weeks in Vancouver during the 2023 strike (file photo)

Published Apr 23, 2024 6:51 PM by The Maritime Executive


Canada’s Federal Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan Jr., announced the appointment of an Industrial Inquiry Commission to study the devastating labor strike that paralyzed West Coast ports for nearly two weeks and had ramifications across Canada for weeks. Since the strike, Canadian business groups have continued to lobby for changes to federal labor policies to prevent similar strikes.

Longshore workers at Canada’s West Coast ports went on strike in July 2023 which critically impacted cargo and bulk operations at both Vancouver and Prince Rupert, which are two of Canada’s largest gateways. At the time there were calls for the federal government to intervene and they did help to bring about a settlement after the union twice rejected terms and was poised for a third round of action. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became personally involved to bring about a resolution. They finally accepted a four-year contract in August with the minister saying "We do not want to be back here again."

While reiterating the government's belief in collective bargaining, O’Regan said “Canadians experienced an economic disruption that no single dispute should be responsible for,” referring to the 2023 port strike. “Our ports are vital to our supply chains, and the scale of the disruption was a burden on the many businesses and workers that depend on them. They deserve long-term solutions. They deserve answers.”

The government says the official goal of the inquiry is “stability.” O’Regan said Canada’s credibility as a trading partner “depends on the stable operation of our supply chains.”

In October 2023 he charged two independent industrial relations exports to identify the questions that needed to be answered about the port strike. He asked them to propose terms for a more comprehensive review. They concluded that the West Coast ports represent a unique case study that requires a deeper examination said the labor minister.

He appointed a commission to study the underlying issues in longshore labor disputes at Canada’s West Coast ports. The commission will be headed by one of Canada’s most seasoned mediators and arbitrators, Vincent Ready. His career started in 1965 and they report he has been involved in arbitrating and mediating over 7,000 labor and commercial disputes and over 600 collective agreements. He is familiar with the West Coast labor dispute as he was brought in by the government to mediate the deal last summer.

The commission will meet with the stakeholders and review submissions from relevant parties. It will present a report to the Labor Ministry in the Spring of 2025.