Canada

Federal labour minister gives deadline for proposed deal in B.C. port strike


Canada’s Minister of Labour has given a federal mediator a deadline to propose a settlement in a strike at B.C.’s ports that he describes as “paralyzing” the country’s imports and exports.


In a brief online update Tuesday evening, the BC Maritime Employers Association noted that they, along with the union representing thousands of striking dock workers, received correspondence from Seamus O’Regan saying he has invoked his statutory powers under the Canada Labour Code to instruct the mediator to draft the terms of a recommended settlement within 24 hours.


After that is received, the minister will share the proposal with both sides and give them a further 24 hours to “review and communicate their willingness to recommend the terms for ratification to their respective members.”


In his own statement Tuesday, O’Regan said he is making the move because he is confident a “good deal” is possible within this time frame in spite of the fact that negotiations have been underway since April and the strike has been ongoing for nearly two weeks.


“Today, after eleven days of a work stoppage, I have decided that the difference between the employer’s and the union’s positions is not sufficient to justify a continued work stoppage,” the statement said.


About 7,400 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada in Vancouver have been on strike since July 1. They say they’re fighting for protections against contracting out work and automation, as well as pushing for higher wages.


The BCMEA said it met with the union on Monday night at the request of federal mediators, “but regrettably, no progress was made.”


Business owners have expressed concerns about critical shipments stuck at the port and delays in deliveries needed to complete projects on time, saying this disruption comes at a time when the supply chain still has not completely recovered from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Speaking at a meeting of Canada’s premiers in Winnipeg, B.C., Premier David Eby said Tuesday that the group is unified in wanting the strike resolved as quickly as possible.


“It has knock-on impacts on cost of living for people across the country as goods get more expensive because imports are not available and it’s really the worst time for that,” he said.


“We also know in British Columbia, where the port is, that port workers have seen increasing costs just like everybody else.” 


The cost to the economy has been estimated at anywhere between $250 million to $1 billion per week. 


With files from The Canadian Press


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