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B.C. port negotiators weigh union contract offer

(Resource News International) — The
British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA)
said Sunday it will mull over a contract offer made over the weekend
by Local 514 of the International Longshore and Warehouse
Union of Canada (ILWU).

The offer was presented in the early morning hours on Sunday and capped off a negotiating session between the parties that began early Saturday.

Two federally appointed negotiators have been
participating in and mediating the effort to draft a new
contract for ILWU Local 514, whose 425 members have been

without a formal work agreement since spring 2007.

The BCMEA, which represents companies involved in
waterfront operations on the West Coast, plans to
meet with its direct employers’ committee early this week and
said it will respond to the union’s offer at the earliest on
Wednesday, but “in no case” later than Friday.

Until then, no further meeting has been scheduled.

The union had threatened to strike as soon as Jan. 2,
but according to media reports, ILWU Canada president Tom
Dufresne said workers would stay on the job while negotiations
continue.

Local 514 represents ship and dock foremen from all ILWU
ports in B.C. In the event of a strike they could be joined on
the picket line by other ILWU workers supporting their fellow
union members, bringing the total number of striking workers
to 5,000.

Specialty crops

Either way, a strike could seriously disrupt the flow of
goods to and from ports in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, Vancouver
Island and Price Rupert.

Only grain movement would continue because it is
considered an essential service under federal legislation.

Imports and exports of specialty and pulse crops, which
are transported in containers, would be among the disrupted
shipments as they are not protected under the “essential
service” regulation.

In the past, striking workers have been legislated back
to work to ensure continued movement of goods and commodities.
But with Parliament temporarily suspended, such legislation
would not be possible until Jan. 27, when Parliament is
scheduled to resume.

In the meantime, port and corporate executives have
reportedly started to petition federal Labour Minister Rona
Ambrose regarding the possible trade disruption.

Media in the region have reported that Metro Vancouver chief executive
Gordon Houston wrote to Ambrose,
saying a strike would “significantly impact most of Canada’s
West Coast supply chains at a critical time in our economic
history.”

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