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West Coast port workers able to strike Friday

(Resource News International) — The threat of a strike at Canada’s busiest West Coast ports still looms after meetings Monday between a port workers’ union and their employers failed to result in a new labour contract.

According to an update on the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) website, scheduled negotiations resumed Monday with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of Canada Local 514 and two federally appointed mediators, but apparently to no avail, as no further announcement was made.

The next round of discussions is planned for Saturday (Jan. 3).

As of Friday (Jan. 2), however, 425 ship and dock foremen from ports in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert will already be in legal strike position.

Already before the latest meetings, Canadian and U.S. shipping companies had said that if no agreement was reached over the weekend, they would start diverting Vancouver-bound shipments to other destinations, according to BCMEA chief executive officer Andy Smith.

Even if the parties were to reach a deal before Jan. 2, a “significant diminishing of business” was still going to hit the ports, Smith said at that time.

If the union decides to move ahead with a strike next week, federal law would guarantee continued movement of bulk grain vessels in and out of the affected ports. But all other shipments would be disrupted, including shipments of specialty and pulse crops that usually move by containers and aren’t covered by the provision that protects grain shipments.

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.

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 a total of 5,000 workers could be affected.

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