Strike ends at West Coast ports

Cargo ship at port near Victoria, B.C. Credit: B. Martin, 2023, RealAgriculture

Port workers in B.C. who have been on strike for the past 13 days will be returning to work, after the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada agreed to a proposal from federal mediators on Thursday.

The two sides have reached a tentative four-year agreement and are finalizing plans to resume work at ports along the West Coast.

“The scale of this disruption has been significant. The extent of it has shown just how important the relationship between industry and labour is to our national interest. Our supply chains and our economy depend on it,” note Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in a joint statement. “We do not want to be back here again. Deals like this, made between parties at the collective bargaining table, are the best way to prevent that. They are the best way to preserve the long-term stability of Canada’s economy. But we do not want to be back here again.”

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says it is pleased to see the end of the strike, but concerned about the damage it caused to the Canadian economy.

“This strike demonstrates that government must increase the tools available to ensure labour stability for our critical infrastructure and our supply chains. We look forward to working with Members of Parliament to achieve this goal,” the chamber says.

The disruption to agriculture supply chains will last for months, notes Keystone Agricultural Producers general manager Brenna Mahoney, in a statement issued late Thursday.

“Damage to Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier will last years. This cannot be allowed to happen again,” she says.

Both KAP and Manitoba Pork are among the groups calling on the federal government to develop a recovery plan that gives priority to high-value and perishable products waiting at port positions.

“Manitoba exports about $730,000,000 worth of pork to Asia, including high-valued chilled pork that cannot be even slightly delayed. Thousands of jobs from across Manitoba have been put at risk,” says Manitoba Pork general manager Cam Dahl.

Going forward, the farm groups are also asking the federal ministers to consider the following:

  • Declaring food and agriculture shipments as essential;
  • Initiating mediation prior to strikes or lockouts occurring; and
  • Implementing staggered contracts to ensure operational continuity in impacted ports during times of disruption

Nineteen agriculture and farm organizations sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau earlier this week calling on the government to take action to end the work stoppage, citing the loss of perishable goods and impact on animal welfare, among other negative effects.

According to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s online “Port Shutdown Calculator,” the labour dispute has disrupted nearly $10 billion in trade.

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Categories: Logistics / Markets / News / Western Canada