The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) plans to lock out longshoremen in B.C. ports effective Thursday, May 30. This will affect the Port of Vancouver and every other facility across B.C. that is a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), including around 20 facilities and 7,000 workers.
The lockout is in response to the limited longshore strike that began on Monday. The partial strike targeted Global Container Terminals Canada, which operates the Deltaport and Vanterm container terminals.
ILWU president Rob Ashton said the union wanted to keep cargo moving, recognizing the importance of British Columbia ports to Canada’s economy.
BCMEA and the ILWU have been negotiating a new contract for one that expired in March 2018, but have yet to come to an agreement. The ILWU is most concerned about the increase in automation at port facilities, which they believe will eliminate good jobs supporting middle-class families.
Ashton said the union is aiming for “fair language in the collective agreement around automation” to ensure jobs are protected.
Chair of the board of BCMEA, Jeff Scott, said the lockout was “an extremely difficult conclusion to arrive at, following 17 months of bargaining, as the impact will be significant for the average Canadian who depends on the reliable flow of goods that move through our B.C. ports.”
“Our preference remains to resolve this at the bargaining table without disruption; however, as a result of the recent and significant disruptions caused by ILWU – Canada’s work-to-rule job action, we can no longer effectively and safely operate the impacted terminals. This has already caused cargo diversion from the B.C. coast and threatens further loss of cargo,” Scott said.
The lockout does not include cruise ship operations or, under federal law, employees required to service the ships at the port’s grain terminals.
While no talks are scheduled for before Thursday, the employers are seeking mediation and are open to more negotiations.
Vancouver is the third largest port in North America by tons of cargo. The lockout could cost the Canadian economy billions per day.
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