BC waterfront dockers/employers
in prolonged deadlock
A federal mediator has stepped in to seek a new collective agreement between maritime employers and 4,500 dockers locked in a prolonged deadlock that could potentially disrupt normal shipping activity at Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) and other ports on the B.C. coast.
Bill Lewis, the mediator, entered resumed negotiations on March 31 between senior officials of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The BCMEA represents 62 ship and terminal owners.
PMV President and CEO Robin Silvester has expressed concern that the threat of work stoppage is retraining growth potential at Canada's largest port.
"No container or bulk ships have been diverted thus far, but shippers are diverting some cargo to U.S. Pacific Northwest ports," Greg Vurdela, BCMEA's VP Marketing, told Maritime Magazine.
He indicated that "the union is pushing for more money without giving much in return, It is looking for wage increases of 3% per year for 3-4 years. This would be a very rich contract - considerably beyond recent other labour agreements negotiated in British Columbia."
The employers, Mr. Vurdela said, are looking for greater workforce flexibility, cost containment and productivity in exchange for moderate wage gains.The existing contract expired a year ago.
The current average wage and benefit package for B.C. longshore workers amounts to $150,000.
A strike vote held by the ILWU last January garnered 95% support. The Canada Labour Code prohibits a strike or lockout during a federal election campaign. In the past, the federal government has also intervened with back-to-work legislation when port work stoppages last more than a few days and hurt Canada's international trade. But officials fear that just the long friction is costing business. (Photo: PMV)