ILWU Canada Reverses Position and Votes to Recommend Contract Terms

Canada dockworkers strike settlement
ILWU Canada is recommending membership accept terms for the new contract (Vancouver file photo)

Published Jul 21, 2023 6:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

Canada’s West Coast port strike appears to be over with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union reporting on Friday that its caucus approved the proposed contract and will submit it to the membership at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning, July 25. Government officials, business leaders, and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association all said they were pleased and thanked the ILWU leadership for accepting what is being called a “fair and equitable deal,” but it was unclear if there had been further negotiations.

In a surprise development, union leadership reported on Tuesday that its caucus had rejected the terms provided by a federal mediator and attempted to restart the strike. The government’s transport and labor ministers expressed their frustration while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened a rarely used approach bringing together his ministers and advisors in what is known as an Incident Response Group to explore all possible approaches to settle the dispute and protect Canada’s supply chain.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Trudeau said “We were all dismayed,” over the rejection calling the terms developed by the federal mediator a “good deal.” Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan had used the mediator to set terms as the strike reached 13 days saying that the two sides were not that far apart and the differences did not warrant continuing the strike.

The union leaders rejected the settlement while the BCMEA’s leadership accepted the terms from the federal mediator. The ILWU said it did not do enough to protect jobs, address the cost of living, and the four-year term was too long.

Trudeau told reporters however that the government was “glad to see” the union was reconsidering the deal on Thursday. By the evening, one of the locals was reporting after further negotiations a tentative deal was in place that would be voted on today by the caucus.

Neither side is admitting to changes in the terms proposed by the federal mediator and BCMEA is saying the ILWU Canada caucus approved the mediator’s terms voting to recommend them to the membership.

O’Regan Tweeted a message of thanks to ILWU Canada confirming that the caucus voted to “send the Terms of Settlement to a membership vote, with their recommendation for ratification.”

He said, “Right now, BC ports are operating, but we need long-term stability.”

Canadian business leaders estimated that the strike had cost as much as C$500 million (US$378 million) per day disrupting trade and the operations of Canadian first and third largest ports.  Approximately 7,500 dockworkers were on strike impacting more than 30 terminals and ports in British Columbia, Canada.