The union representing roughly 7,400 British Columbia port workers issued a 72-hour strike notice Wednesday, hours after the federal labour minister deemed its impromptu strike “illegal.”
The union ordered its members back to the picket line Tuesday after rejecting an offer that briefly ended the strike last week.
That tentative agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) and the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) was proposed by a meditator who received direction from Ottawa to table the offer.
Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan called that strike “illegal” after the Canada Industrial Relations Board ruled Wednesday the ILWU stop its job action as it did not provide 72 hours notice.
“The re-issuance of strike notice shows that we will be facing a repeat of actions by the ILWU Leadership that will continue to grind operations to a halt at Canada’s largest ports,” BCMEA said in a statement.
“The economy, businesses, and Canadians cannot withstand another unnecessary and reckless labour disruption by ILWU.”
ILWU members are set to walk off the job on Saturday at 9 a.m. PT should a deal not be reached.
BCMEA said that the ILWU’s internal caucus leadership rejected the “fair and comprehensive package” that was proposed by the mediator.
BCMEA said the proposed four-year collective agreement included “considerable hikes in wages and benefits” that exceeded the approximate 10 per cent increase over the past three years.
The proposed increases, it added, were also “generally above the established norm of recent private and public sector union settlements in British Columbia and Canada.”
B.C. port strike resumes after offer rejected
In a statement, the ILWU said that with “the record profits that the BCMEA’s member companies have earned over the last few years, the employers have not addressed the cost-of-living issues that our workers have faced over the last couple of years as all workers have.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed the strike’s resumption on Trudeau’s “total incompetence,” saying he caused the job action by “raising the cost of living.”
“Justin Trudeau must do his job and end this strike immediately because of the massive cost to workers, consumers and businesses,” he told reporters in Niagara Falls, Ont., on Wednesday.
“We’re calling on him to deliver a plan (and) end this strike within the next 24 hours.”
B.C. port strike back on after union rejects offer
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters in Newfoundland Wednesday said while the government believes in the collective bargaining process, he was disappointed by the outcome and that Ottawa is now “exploring options.” He did not elaborate as to what those options were.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement Wednesday that while it can be a challenging process to get to a deal sometimes, “we must not lose sight of what is at stake for B.C. port workers but also for every worker who relies on this process to ensure their voices are always heard in negotiations with powerful employers.”
“Instead of throwing up their hands in frustration and making threats, the federal government should be urging both sides back to the table to talk right now,” he said.
‘Good deal within reach’: Both sides of B.C. port strike consider mediator’s offer
A federal government official with knowledge of the situation told Motorcycle accident toronto today that all options are on the table including recalling Parliament, but that the government’s priority is speed and which options are fastest. The official said union leadership has denied members the chance to vote on the proposal.
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Recalling Parliament to introduce and pass back-to-work legislation would take several days.
Regardless, stakeholders have been quick to call on Ottawa to step in.
Stakeholders have been quick to call on Ottawa to step in.
“I don’t think the government has much choice now but to legislate them back, to be honest with you,” said John Corey, president of the Freight Management Association of Canada.
Workers were off the job from July 1 to 13, which cost roughly $10 billion in lost trade, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade estimates. Shipments were halted in and out of about 30 ports in B.C., including Canada’s largest, the Port of Vancouver.
“Thirteen days was bad enough; it’s going to take until October to clear that through the supply chain. And if this goes back on, not only is it going to jam up the supply chain, it makes Canada look like a laughing stock,” Corey said.
B.C. port strike may be over, but supply chain disruptions could last for awhile
In its own statement, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce said it was “profoundly disappointed” the union had rejected the deal.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who has been vocal about the labour dispute since it began, posted to Twitter calling for the Liberal government to reconvene Parliament and legislate an end to the dispute.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Retail Council of Canada also called on Ottawa Wednesday to pass back-to-work legislation to end the strike.
In 2021, the Tories supported the minority Liberals in passing back-to-work legislation to end a brief strike at the Port of Montreal that also restricted the flow of millions worth in goods.
Singh said the NDP – which has an agreement in place to support the minority Liberals in passing key legislation – would not support a back-to-work proposal.
“New Democrats will always stand up for workers who are defending their rights and fighting for a better future for their families and communities,” he said.
— with files from Amy Judd
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