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Industrial Inquiry Commission to probe underlying issues in Canadian West Coast port labour disputes


Federal Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan Jr. this week announced the appointment of an Industrial Inquiry Commission to study the underlying issues behind a nearly two-week docker strike at West Coast ports in July 2023 that severely disrupted Canadan supply chains. The announcement closely coincided with the news that B.C. port employers remain at loggerheads with unionized ship and dock foremen after federal mediators were unable to broker an agreement before the end of a conciliation period.

While reaffirming the government’s belief in collective bargaining and that strikes and lockouts are a part of a process, Minister O’Regan stated: “This past summer, however, Canadians experienced an economic disruption that no single dispute should be responsible for.

“Our ports are vital to our supply chains, and the scale of the disruption was a burden on the many businesses and workers that depend on them. They deserve long-term solutions. They deserve answers.”

The work stoppages had in particular strongly impacted bulk, container, and general cargo operations at the major Pacific Gateway ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

Headed by seasoned mediator Vincent Ready, the Commission has been mandated to present its findings by spring 2025.

Throughout his career, Mr. Ready has mediated or arbitrated over 7000 labour and commercial disputes in Canada and is named in over 600 collective agreements. This included the new collective agreement reached last summer between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) and the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA).

Meanwhile, in the separate dispute involving the ship and dock foremen, the end of the conciliation stage has triggered a 21-day cooling-off period until May 10. No job action can potentially take place until after this date. Mediated negotiations are scheduled for May 8-10.

(Photo from Vancouver Fraser Port Authority)