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Threat of labour action spreads to Canada’s west coast

ILWU Canada to hold strike vote in coming days on walk-outs at key ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert by end of the month

The threat of strikes looms over key Canadian ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, important gateways for US cargo, and comes as coastwide labour actions are impacting operations in US west coast terminals

JOB ACTION risk has spread north of the US as dockworkers represented by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada are threatening a strike later this month that will impact the country’s west coast ports.

The threat comes amid disruptions in the US west coast, where ILWU dockworkers are said to have been disrupting terminal operations since Friday as negotiations with their employers, the Pacific Maritime Association, appears to have hit a snag over the issue of compensation.

The key ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert are major gateways for US cargo, raising the stakes for the prospect of a strike at a time of disruptions and slowdowns stretching from California to Washington.

“Given that a large amount of Canada west coast cargo is railed across the continent, such an action will rapidly increase pressure, and congestion, on the east coast,” Vespucci Maritime’s Lars Jensen said on LinkedIn.

ILWU Canada’s contract with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association expired March 31, with collective bargaining beginning in February.

Ten days ahead of the contract’s expiration, the union’s bargaining committee filed a notice of dispute with the Canadian government, saying there has been no “meaningful progress” in the talks.

On Monday, the union's negotiating committee authorised its rank-and-file members to conduct a strike vote, scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

According to the BCMEA, the parties agreed that no 72-hour strike or lockout notice will be filed before June 21, if at all. This means that the earliest that the ILWU can legally strike is June 24, although dockworkers can engage in a variety of tactics that fall short of an official strike, as witnessed in the US west coast.

“The parties are scheduled to continue to meet during this period with the assistance of [the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service],” the BCMEA said.

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