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

Thousands of port workers across British Columbia are resuming 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 Tuesday that strike activity will resume due to ILWU’s internal caucus rejecting the tentative agreement and not ratifying it.

On Tuesday night, O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said workers and employers across the country “cannot face further disruption on the scale we saw last week.”

“We are looking at all options. We will have more to say on this tomorrow,” they said in a statement.

WATCH | How the B.C. port strike affects Canadians: 

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.

They say the mediated agreement represented a fair and balanced deal for both sides.

 “We have been patient. We have respected the collective bargaining process. But we need our ports operating.”

Recommended terms not sufficient: union

In their Tuesday statement, the BCMEA said: “Both the BCMEA and ILWU recommended ratification of the tentative settlement to their respective memberships.

“The BCMEA ratified the agreement on July 13.”

The BCMEA said 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.

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.”

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.

A South Asian man with a flowing beard walks on a street wearing a sandwich board that reads 'I.L.W.U. On Strike against B.C. Maritime Employers Association'.
A striking ILWU worker is seen on July 7. The port workers’ 13-day strike cost industries billions of dollars, according to umbrella groups. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

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.”

WATCH | B.C. port workers chant as strike resumes in Vancouver: 

b c port workers resume strike after union rejects tentative deal 2

B.C. port workers resume strike

7 hours ago

Duration 0:21

After the International Longshore and Warehouse Union caucus rejected a tentative agreement, strike activity began anew for workers in Vancouver.

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.

WATCH | O’Regan talks about asking for terms to end the strike on July 12: 

b c port workers resume strike after union rejects tentative deal 3

B.C. port strike parties deliberating after labour minister’s ‘forceful nudge’

7 days ago

Duration 8:14

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, 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.

Federal NDP transport critic Taylor Bachrach said in a statement that while the strike resumption was a setback, it is within a union’s bargaining rights to reject an agreement, and negotiations should continue without the threat of a legislated end to the dispute.

“We are also renewing our call for the federal government to support the collective bargaining process, rather than resorting to the sort of back-to-work legislation that Liberal and Conservative governments have imposed far too often,” Bachrach said.

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