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Strike looms Monday by ship and dock foremen in British Columbia

By Leo Ryan, Editor 

Unless there is an urgent late-hour intervention by the Canada Industrial Relations Board requested by the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), a strike by more than 600 unionized ship and dock foremen is to begin on July 8 at or about 4.30 pm. Otherwise, the BCMEA has threatened “to take defensive action in the form of an industry-wide lockout.”

The deadlocked negotiations are being anxiously watched by Canadian business circles who do not want to see a repeat of the serious supply chain disruptions caused last summer by waterfront labour stoppages which notably paralyzed cargo shipments through the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert – major Canadian Pacific gateways.

On Friday, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 514 (ILWU) served a 72-hour notice of strike action against DP World Canada despite the CIRB having started hearings to address complaints from both sides. In addition to such matters as retirement benefits, a key issue for the ILWU has revolved around  DP World’s automation plans for its rail intermodal yard at Centerm terminal in the Port of Vancouver.

Following the strike announcement, the BCMEA requested on Saturday an urgent interim intervention by the CIRB, specifically asking the Board “to declare proposals and strike action of ILWU Local 514 as contrary to the Canada Labour Code. If interim relief is granted, ILWU Local 514’s strike action will be prevented.”

The CIRB scheduled a case management hearing for the morning of Sunday, July 7 to address this request.

At mid-afternoon today (Sunday), Rob Mackay-Dunn, BCMEA Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, told Maritime Magazine in an emailed message: “CIRB hearing has commenced, but no sense yet how it will proceed timing or outcome-wise.”

“This urgent application concerns the ongoing adjudication of the BCMEA’s complaint regarding these matters, which was filed on May 10, 2024,” the BCMEA stated. “Rather than pursue resolution through the existing CIRB hearing into this matter, ILWU Local 514 has needlessly escalated the dispute by serving strike notice against DP World (Canada) Inc.” 

The BCMEA then declared: “We hope this matter will be resolved expeditiously at the CIRB. However, in the event that the CIRB allows the strike to proceed, the BCMEA believes it has no choice but to take defensive action in the form of an industry-wide lockout. Accordingly, the BCMEA has issued formal notice to ILWU Local 514 of its intention to defensively lock out all ILWU Local 514 members on July 9, 2024 at 4:30 pm. This coastwide lockout, should it be required, will shut down all cargo operations of BCMEA member companies across the province, but will not affect cruise operations nor interrupt longshoring operations on grain vessels.” 

The BCMEA and ILWU Local 514 have been negotiating on an industry-wide basis since November 2022. The BCMEA recalled its latest offer of a 19.2% wage increase, which could have enhanced the median foreperson compensation from $246,323 to $293,617 annually, not including benefits and pension. The four-year proposal was in line with the negotiated 2023 longshore settlement and included:

  • On average, eligible workers would have received a cumulative lump sum payment of approximately $15,000, inclusive of signing bonus and retroactive pay increases.
  • An in increased retirement benefit of $108,750an increase of 16%. This lump sum retirement benefit is over and above employees’ pension entitlements. 

 (Photo of DP World Centerm terminal at Port of Vancouver)