Vessels backing up as B.C. port strike continues

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Business groups including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Trucking Alliance are calling on the federal government to legislate longshore workers back to work at B.C. ports, fearing the potential effects on domestic and international supply chains.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau July 5, more than 120 associations urged for a quick resolution to the strike.

Sixty vessels were waiting to berth at Port of Vancouver terminals as of July 6, although not all are affected by the labor action, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority says. Two of the Port of Prince Rupert’s seven terminals — Fairview Container Terminal and Westview Wood Pellet Terminal — are impacted, affecting two vessels at anchor.

strike sign
(Photo: iStock)

The BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) walked away from the bargaining table on Monday, leaving 7,500 International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) workers off the job.

While BCMEA says the union is trying to expand its jurisdiction over regular maintenance work, ILWU Canada said on Tuesday the association is “deaf to the real and legitimate concerns” of the union.

“Our jurisdiction in maintenance has been aggressively eroded by member employers by using third-party contractors. This is not an issue of cost for the direct employers because they already pay for this work to be done by maintenance contracting companies,” the union said June 4.

“In fact, using ILWU skilled trades employees will be more cost-effective and will result in a higher quality of work because of their industry experience and competency.”

Shortage of trades workers

The association says nearly 25% of specific jobs were not filled due to the union’s failure to supply workers.

“On average, of the trades work that the ILWU Canada is exclusively entitled to supply in Vancouver, 17% of jobs went unfilled last year. This lack of labor supply has immediate impacts on terminal productivity as regular maintenance of cargo-moving equipment goes unaddressed and delayed,” BCMEA said.

ILWU Canada contradicts this, saying the association is not willing to “properly utilize” the union’s skilled trades workers.

“We already have sufficient numbers of registered trades workers to meet the demands of the industry and we continue to recruit more.”

Business group concerns

The impasse is concerning various industry groups.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has called for “immediate intervention” to prevent further disruption of the country’s supply chain, fearing for Canadians who are bearing the cost of inflationary pressures.

“The government should immediately recall parliament to pass back-to-work legislation to protect the livelihoods of Canadian workers and the health of Canadian businesses affected by disruption to the more than $800-million worth of cargo flowing through West Coast ports every single day,” said Robin Guy, vice-president and deputy leader of government relations.

Fertilizer Canada added its voice, calling for federal back-to-work legislation to protect Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner.

“Canada exports 95% of the potash we produce to global markets with the majority flowing through the Port of Vancouver,” said Karen Proud, president and CEO of Fertilizer Canada. More than 75 countries rely on Canadian fertilizer.

  • Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the affected terminals and number of vessels affected by the strike action as of July 6. regrets the errors.

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Krystyna Shchedrina is a reporter for Today's Trucking. She is a recent honors graduate of the journalism bachelor program at Humber College. Reach Krystyna at:

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