The federal government says it's "looking at all options" after striking B.C. port workers failed to ratify a deal reached with the help of federal mediators last week and have returned to the picket lines. PHOTO courtesy Vancouver Port Authority.
Picket lines are back up at B.C. ports in a surprising development that continues the costly labour disruption.
Just five days after federal mediators reached a tentative agreement with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) to end the 13-day strike at the port of British Columbia that snarled supply chains, manufacturers find themselves trapped by new job action.
BREAKING NEWS: The Globe and Mail has just reported that labour minister Seamus O'Regan has called the resumption of strike action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union "illegal" following a ruling by the Canada Industrial Relations Board. O'Regan tweeted that the board is ordering the union to stop its strike activity because it did not provide 72 hours notice of its intent to return to the picket lines.
“The ILWU Canada Longshore Caucus does not believe the recommendations had the ability to protect our jobs now or into the future.Our position since day one has been to protect our jurisdiction and this position has not changed,” said Rob Ashton, president of ILWU Canada in a prepared statement. “With the record profits that the BCMEA’s member companies have earned over the last few years the employers have not addressed the cost of living issues that our workers have faced over the last couple of years as all workers have.”
Ashton added the union prefers a two-year agreement rather than the four-year agreement preferred by the employers.
The union’s decision to turn down the offer and return to the picket lines did not go down well with business groups, which have already warned of the long-term impact of the labour disruption on supply chains, or the federal government.
Last week, after 13 days of work stoppage, Seamus O’Regan Jr., the minister of labour, stepped in to ask federal mediators to provide recommendations for terms of a settlement. Both parties tentatively agreed to this settlement to bring an end to the strike. But yesterday while receiving formal notice from the BCMEA that their membership had accepted this deal in full O’Regan was also informed that, despite initially agreeing to recommend the Terms of Settlement, ILWU Canada’s leadership had decided not to recommend ratification of the terms to their members.
O’Regan Jr. and Omar Alghabra, minister of transport, quickly issued a joint statement voicing their displeasure with the union’s decision not to certify a new contract.
“Workers and employers across Canada cannot face further disruption on the scale we saw last week. Therefore, we are looking at all options. 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,” the statement reads.
It adds: “We have been patient. We have respected the collective bargaining process. But we need our ports operating.”
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters is already calling for back-to-work legislation to finally end the strike. And the Freight Management Association said it will be stressing to the government that “more agressive and urgent action is necessary to end this damaging work stoppage.”
Meanwhile as a result of the resumption of the strike at west coast ports, CN and CPKC railroads have issued new embargo notices as follows.
CN will immediately commence a wind down of international intermodal services to ports in British Columbia and will be prepared to resume services expeditiously as soon as the work stoppage ends. It expected on Tuesday to begin notifying impacted customers “shortly.”
CN will continue to add additional capacity to East Coast ports, where applicable, for any traffic that can be redirected to keep trade and the economy moving. CN’s domestic intermodal service will continue to run as per plan and its international intermodal service to ports outside British Columbia remains unaffected at this time.
For carload service, CN must recommence staging bulk trains at origin and immediately restore embargoes for shipments moving towards British Columbia.
An embargo for shipments routing to the below locations is immediately being placed. The embargo applies to all shipments originating in Canada, United States and Mexico which are billed to the following:
Neptune Bulk Terminals Canada
Neptune Bulk Terminals LTD
Pacific Coast Terminals
During the embargo period, CPKC’s network will remain open to accept permits in order to accommodate rail traffic as capacity allows. There is no impact to our Domestic Intermodal customers.