VANCOUVER, B.C.– A labour dispute at British Columbia ports in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert could see port workers in a position to strike beginning Jan. 2.. While grain shipments, which are protected by law, won’t be affected, port officials said imports and exports of all commodities will immediately halt if that happens, reported the Financial Post.
Negotiations are ongoing between the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, who have been working for 60 days towards a resolution.
While some sources close to the talks expressed confidence that a labour disruption will be avoided, BCMEA president Andy Smith warned that if a new contract is not signed by this weekend, when cargo bound for the West Coast starts loading in far eastern ports, international shipping lines will begin sending Vancouver-bound shipments elsewhere.
“The significant Canadian and American shippers are saying, ‘if you don’t have a deal we’re going to have to start to divert now’,” Smith told reporters.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that Parliament has been prorogued until Jan. 27, effectively preventing a back to work order until sometime mid-February.
The 450 ship and dock foremen with ILWU Local 514 have been without a contract since March 31, 2007. Other port workers concluded their negotiations earlier this year, but could also strike if Local 514 walks off the job, since safety concerns and union solidarity would keep them from working without foremen on site, reported FP.
The current round of labour negotiations is centered around issues with pension payments and working conditions.
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