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New tentative deal between British Colombia’s dockers and maritime employers


The month-long labour conflict at British Columbia’s ports may be finally ending following a late night breakthrough on Sunday announcing a new (and third) tentative collective agreement between the docker union and maritime employers.

In a joint statement, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and the BC Maritime Employers Association said the new deal was reached with the assistance of the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

No details were released. Rob Ashton, ILWU Canada President, indicated early Sunday that “a critical issue was contracting out maintenance work.”

Both sides recommended to their members to ratify it. The dispute has especially hit cargo operations at the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, major gateways in Canada’s foreign trade

The union representing about 7,500 dock workers has agreed not to call a strike while a ratification vote is in progress, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) said on Monday, adding that the vote must be held no later than Friday. A strike between July 1 and July 13 prevented the movement of billions of dollars of goods.

The previously rejected contract included a compounded wage increase of 19.2 per cent and a signing bonus amounting to about $3,000 per full-time worker. The end t result would have “potentially” boosted a union longshore worker’s median annual wage from $136,000 to $162,000, not including pension and benefits.

In a statement Saturday, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan had stressed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s July 19 decision to meet with the incident response group — a move typically reserved for moments of national crisis — showed “the government is prepared for all options and eventualities.” This would include imposed arbitration through back-to-work legislation.

“The state of uncertainty cannot continue,” Mr. O’Regan had said. “While our B.C. ports are operating right now, we need long-term stability for the many workers and businesses that depend on them.”

(Port of Vancouver photo)