Port of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, July 19, 2023. DARRYL DYCK / AP
The main union representing dockers in Western Canada said on Wednesday July 19 that it had postponed the strike, considered illegal without notice, and planned a new walkout on Saturday in ports critical to trade and the economy.
After thirteen days of strike at the beginning of the month, workers at the port of Vancouver in particular had stopped their social movement last week, before resuming it on Tuesday, finally rejecting the wage agreement reached. On Wednesday, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) considered that a “72 hours notice was required” before the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union of Canada (ILWUC) can resume action.
The ILWUC, which represents more than 7,000 workers at 30 western Canadian ports, later said it would appeal the decision but in the meantime will “would respect and return notice” of strike. “Government interference, like the CCRI decision, will only lengthen the strike”the union said, saying however “regret the economic consequences of this labor dispute”.
Read also: In Vancouver, Canada’s largest port on strike again
The day before, union negotiators had rejected the agreement reached after the first thirteen days of the strike, indicating that they doubted that the agreement could protect “jobs today or tomorrow”. Subcontracting, port automation and the cost of living are the main reasons for the strike.
“My patience has reached its limits”
On the management side, the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) called the ILWUC’s resumption of the strike an“unnecessary and thoughtless”. The strike has “caused immense damage to Canada’s commercial reputation and disrupted the movement of goods worth at least $10 billion” Canadian dollars (6.7 billion euros), the BCMEA said in a statement, citing an estimate from the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.
The House called on the federal government to “actively participate in the search for a solution to reopen our ports”.
Read also: In Canada, the Vancouver port strike is over
“My patience has reached its limits”, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said at a press conference on Wednesday. Contacted by Agence France-Presse (AFP), his ministry did not specify its intentions, stressing that it was examining “all options”. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced on Wednesday the convening of the Incident Response Group, an emergency committee usually mobilized to respond to major crises.
According to Gilles LeVasseur, professor of law and management at the University of Ottawa, the Canadian government still has recourse to end the strike. “The government could try to get a special bill passed by the House of Commons to force a return to work and put in place a mechanism for negotiation”he told AFP.
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In this case, the dockers would be obliged to work at the same time as they negotiate with the employer, and in the event of disagreement an agreement could be imposed by an external mediator. The resumption of this strike will have significant repercussions on the North American market, but also on the world because of the significant trade with Asia and the United States.
Read also: In western Canada, a strike movement paralyzes the country’s largest port