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B.C. port workers resume strike after union rejects tentative deal

Home News B.C. port workers resume strike after union rejects tentative deal

B.C. port workers resume strike after union rejects tentative deal

International Longshore & Warehouse Union’s internal caucus rejects mediated agreement

Thousands of port workers across British Columbia are set to resume strike activity after failing to ratify a tentative deal that was reached through federal mediation.

More than 7,400 workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) had walked off the job from July 1 until July 13 over issues like port automation, outside contracting and the increasing cost of living.

A tentative agreement had been reached between the ILWU and their employer, the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), on July 13 after Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan asked for terms to end the strike, drawn up by a federal mediator.

However, the BCMEA said in a statement on Tuesday that strike activity is set to resume at 4:30 p.m. PT due to ILWU’s internal caucus rejecting the tentative agreement and not ratifying it.

“Both the BCMEA and ILWU recommended ratification of the tentative settlement to their respective memberships,” reads the statement. “The BCMEA ratified the agreement on July 13.”

The BCMEA said that the mediated four-year collective agreement included “considerable” wage and benefit hikes, as well as provisions addressing the union’s concerns around outside contracting and worker retention.

In a statement sent earlier on Tuesday, a spokesperson for O’Regan’s office said he would not comment on the ratification process until he had received formal notice from both sides.

Workers at ports across B.C. are on strike. We break down why it’s happening and what it means for you and for Canada’s economy.

ILWU Canada said the recommended terms were not sufficient to protect port workers’ jobs “now or into the future.”

“The term of the collective agreement that was given with today’s uncertain times, is far too long,” reads a statement from union president Rob Ashton. “We must be able to re-address the uncertainty in the world’s financial markets for our members.”

At around 5 p.m. Tuesday, picketing workers had returned to the BCMEA dispatch office near the Port of Vancouver. Chants of “An injury to one, an injury to all” and “one day longer, one day stronger” were heard from ILWU members.

The president of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Bridgitte Anderson, said in a statement that she was “dismayed and disappointed” that the strike had resumed.

“We are greatly concerned about the impacts the continuation of the strike will have on Canada’s international reputation as a reliable trade partner,” she said. “In less than two weeks, business across Canada were facing shortages, temporary layoffs, and, in some cases, total shutdowns.”

The strike had stopped all goods flowing through the B.C. coast, which included Canada’s busiest port in Vancouver.

Industry groups had estimated the strike cost billions of dollars in trade disruptions, and led to temporary layoffs at industry facilities in Prince George and Saskatchewan.

Calls for back-to-work legislation

Multiple industry groups, as well as Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, had called for Parliament to reconvene and pass back-to-work legislation to end the strike over the initial 13-day period.

On Tuesday, Smith reiterated her calls for legislation to force ILWU workers back to staff more than 30 B.C. port terminals.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Reagan says he’s confident both sides will agree to the terms to help bring an end to the ongoing B.C. port strike.

However, Labour Minister O’Regan and the federal government had remained steadfast in saying the best deals were reached at the negotiating table.

O’Regan characterized his move, to ask for recommended settlement terms from a federal mediator, as a “forceful nudge” for both sides in the dispute.

Source: CBC News | With files from Shawn Foss

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