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B.C. port strike still looms after talks tank

(Resource News International) — A January strike at West Coast ports
remains a possibility after negotiations over
the weekend by the International Longshore and Warehouse
Union, the British Columbia Maritime
Employers Association and two federally-appointed
mediators failed to result in a new labour contract.

About 425 ship and dock foremen from ports
in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and
Prince Rupert have threatened to strike beginning Jan. 2
unless the BCMEA and ILWU Local 514 can agree on a new labour

contract before then.

Language surrounding pension payments and working
conditions are reportedly the main sticking points between the
parties.

Updates on the BCMEA website say that discussions carried
over into the early hours of Dec. 20 and resumed later on
that afternoon, but evidently to no avail, as no further
announcement was posted.

With Christmas holidays cutting
the current work week short, the next meeting between the
parties is only scheduled to take place early Monday, Dec. 29.

That leaves only two to maximum three business days left
before the union is in legal strike position on Jan. 2 as
the next week will also be shortened by seasonal holidays.

According to BCMEA CEO Andy Smith, Canadian and U.S.
shipping companies said that if no agreement was reached over
the weekend that they would already start diverting Vancouver-
bound shipments to other destinations.

“So even if a deal is made between now and (Jan. 2),
there will be a significant diminishing of business hitting
the port,” Smith was quoted as saying.

Although only 425 workers are currently without a
contract, other port workers who signed contracts earlier in
the year could join the strike by Local 514, meaning that a
total of 5,000 workers could be affected.

In the event of a strike, only grain shipments would be
guaranteed continued movement at the affected ports as they
are protected by federal law. All other shipments would be
disrupted, including shipments of specialty and pulse crops
which usually move by containers and are not covered by the
provision that allows for continued movement of bulk grain
vessels.

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.

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