The rank-and-file of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (Canada) has overwhelmingly voted to strike if necessary, but union leaders have agreed with employers to continue talking until the end of May, providing a modicum of relief to shippers moving goods through the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
Although ILWU members voted 98.4 percent in favor of supporting a strike if they were unsatisfied with progress toward an agreement, the tenor of negotiations has improved in recent weeks, according to two logistics providers close to negotiations. The last major strike was in 1935, which was called by a predecessor union.
“We have dates scheduled to continue bargaining through to the end of May with the assistance of the Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service,” said Jeff Scott, chairman of the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and president and CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks.
ILWU Canada Local 500 on Tuesday urged its members to vote for a strike authorization, although union leaders said that did not guarantee that a strike would take place. Rather, it provides negotiators a tool they can use in the negotiations that have been under way since February 2018.
Neither side will say what issues are holding up the negotiations. The previous eight-year contract expired on March 31, 2018.
In a statement to member companies last month, BCMEA confirmed that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service conciliator who has been involved in the negotiations was reappointed, which is consistent with the experience of previous rounds of collective bargaining.
ILWU Canada is autonomous from the ILWU international, and its contracts are separate from ILWU contracts at US West Coast ports. ILWU Canada has represented longshoremen and other workers on Canada’s Pacific Coast since 1948.