ILWU Canada Delays Strike Notice for DP World’s Vancouver Terminals

Vancouver Canada
Local representing ship and dock foreman delayed a strike notice at DP World's Vancounver contaienr terminal (Port of Vancouver file photo)

Published May 16, 2024 5:00 PM by The Maritime Executive


Canadian officials are again preparing for a potential strike that would impact DP World Canada’s West Coast operation, including the second-largest Vancouver container terminal, while holding out hope for a new round of federal mediation. Yesterday, May 15, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 514 agreed to delay serving a 72-hour strike notice. So far, the contract negotiations however remain deadlocked.

The Local represents over 700 ship and dock foremen working at terminals including DP World Canada’s Centerm container terminal in Vancouver. The facility was expanded in 2023 increasing capacity by 60 percent to 1.5 million TEU annually. It operates six gantry cranes on two berths and is separate from Deltaport operated by GCT which is the larger Vancouver container terminal. DP World Canada also operates the Nanaimo (Duke Point) break bulk and Fraser Surrey multipurpose terminal as well as at Prince Rupert on the West Coast.

Union leadership said it is doing everything it can to avert a potential strike at the port while noting that the local’s contract expired on March 31, 2023. Bargaining began at the end of May and with pauses continued till January 2024 when the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) negotiating on behalf of DP World filed a Notice of Dispute. That triggered a 60-day Conciliation Period and attempts at federal mediation. That was followed by a Cooling Off period that expired on May 10.

Canada’s West Coast ports suffered a devastating strike in 2023 that stopped container movements. The federal government recently launched a commission to investigate the 2023 circumstances to prevent a repeat, but elected officials are worried that another disruption is in the offing now with the Local. 

BCMEA contends that the 2023 strike caused a C$10.7 billion (US$7.9 billion) loss due to disrupted and diverted cargo. They also say that much of the diverted business never returned to Canadian ports. 

Both sides are now free to move toward either a strike or lockout but under Canadian labor rules they would have to be a vote and then filing of a 72-hour notice. The Local has taken its vote and was prepared to file its notice but said it was willing to wait while an effort was underway to try and restart the negotiations. They however are accusing the BCMEA of being misleading and trying to negotiate in the media.

The local is demanding direct talks with DP World Canada saying under arbitration its rights were confirmed. They contend the impasse centers around three issues, including the use of semi-automation at the container terminal without bargaining for a tech change. They are in arbitration over centralized dispatching and are also opposing the use of management instead of union members as dispatchers at the Nanaimo terminal. The local contends the arbitration already ruled against this third point.

The BCMEA accuses the local of “intransigence at the bargaining table,” saying it was left with no choice but to file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board last week. They contend that a generous offer was made for a four-year contract with a 19.2 percent wage increase, a signing bonus, and a 16 percent increase in retirement benefits. There would also be retroactive pay to April 1, 2023.

Businesses fear that Canadian commerce and trade could be brought to a halt by a series of strikes including DP World, but also a threat against Canadian rail and another at the East Coast ports. The rail strike could begin as early as next week involving both CP Rail and CN, Canada’s two carriers, but last Thursday, May 9, Canada’s Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan intervened asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board to review the situation.