Ongoing Canadian port strikes have left over 180,000 containers in 24 vessels unable to enter the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, potentially limiting the trade of billions of dollars worth of goods.
The dispute between the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) has seen negotiations paused as both sides accuse the other of refusing to move on a deal.
Rob Ashton, the president of ILWU Canada, said the BCMEA had changed its position on one of the disputed points during negotiations in an “attempt to muddy the water.”
He said: “The BCMEA drew a line in the sand and ended the progress that had been made, so that the new maintenance document would have no ability to achieve the aims set out in it.
“The Association deliberately sabotaged the progress that had been made therefore we must question their motives and the appropriateness of the BCMEA bargaining committee to actually negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.”
ILWU Canada has said that the issue of maintenance work being contracted out to third parties by members of the BCMEA is the main sticking point for both sides, accusing the association of walking away from the table.
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By GlobalDataMeanwhile, the BCMEA said that it would return to negotiations “at a moment’s notice” if ILWU Canada put forward a “reasonable proposal,” claiming that the union’s labour force was frequnetly inable to fulfill maintenance requirements for BCMEA members.
It said: “This lack of labour supply has immediate impacts on terminal productivity as regular maintenance of cargo-moving equipment goes unaddressed and delayed.
“There is a mutual interest in both Parties working together to resolve the existing labour shortage issue, but ILWU Canada is solely focused on expanding their jurisdiction to other work.”
The situation has also lead to Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr to call for both parties to return to the negotiating table.
O’Regan Jr said in a tweet: “Federal mediators continue to support BCMEA and ILWU in their negotiations. We encourage both parties to immediately return to the bargaining table and remain there until a deal is reached.
“Collective bargaining is hard work but it’s how the best, most resilient deals are made.”