To the relief of many. on July 13, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and the B.C. Maritime Employers Association agreed to a tentative four-year deal ending a 13 day port strike. Written recommendations were requested from a federal mediator in the case to help end the strike.
Port Strike creates Container Backlog
The extent of the disruption caused was significant and sources say it will take time months to remove the backlog of containers. It is estimated that $8.6 billion in cargo was disrupted due to the strike. The strike began on July 1 based on ILWU concerns regarding pay and automation as well as retaining certain types of work.
Approximately 7,400 workers have been on strike and shipments at 30 ports came to a halt. In addition, 63,000 shipping containers were stuck on vessels.
Calls for Legislation
During the strike there were calls for legislation to be passed to force the striking laborers to return to work, however such calls were strongly criticized by the ILWU as they commented that the government did not intervene to impose contract terms on the shipping companies earlier.
Canadian Railways Impacted
The port strike had trickle down effects on railways as Canadian railways saw a steep drop in container shipments in the month of July. According to the American Railroad Association, the number of containers hauled in one week of July fell by nearly half compared to the same period in 2022. Most affected were metal boxes, which carry various goods including auto parts and many consumer goods.
A joint statement was issued by the BCMEA and ILWU on the morning of July 13:
“Last week, after 13 days of work stoppage, Minister O’Regan asked federal mediators to provide recommendations on the terms of a settlement between the BCMEA and the ILWU Canada. Both parties tentatively agreed to this settlement to bring an end to the strike.
Today, we received formal notice from the BCMEA that their membership had accepted this deal in full. However, we were also informed that, despite initially agreeing to recommend the Terms of Settlement, the ILWU Canada’s leadership had decided not to recommend ratification of the terms to their members.
Workers and employers across Canada cannot face further disruption on the scale we saw last week. Therefore, we are looking at all options. We will have more to say on this tomorrow.
We should not be here. The deal presented to the parties was the result of a constructive and substantive collective bargaining process. It represented a fair and balanced deal. It was informed by weeks of collective bargaining and drafted by third-party mediators in the interest of both the union and the employer.
We have been patient. We have respected the collective bargaining process. But we need our ports operating.”
There are also calls to ensure this type of situation does not repeat itself in the future emphasizing the importance of the relationship between labor and industry.
There was a brief threat of another strike last week, but was quickly rescinded. There will be a stop working meeting on the day shift on Tuesday, July 25th, 2023 to recommend the terms of the tentative settlement.