The leadership of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada Local 500 in Vancouver is urging the membership to approve a strike authorization in voting that will take place Wednesday and Thursday in contract negotiations that began in February 2018.
However, even if the ILWU Canada local votes this week to authorize a job action, an actual strike at Canada’s largest port would require a 72-hour notice to employers, under the existing labor rules.
Management, represented by the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), said Tuesday negotiations with ILWU Local 500 are ongoing, with the assistance of Canada’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. “We are aware of the strike vote, but we remain focused on reaching an agreement,” said Jeff Scott, BCMEA chairman, and president and CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks.
An ILWU Canada spokesperson was not immediately available for comment, and Scott wasn’t able to disclose the issues that have separated the two sides in negotiations that have been under way for more than a year now.
Regardless of the reasons, the patience of the union appears to be wearing thin. In a message to the membership, Rino Voci, ILWU Local 500 president, urged the rank and file to approve a strike authorization vote.
“A YES vote gives your negotiating committee the support it needs to bring us closer to getting a new industry agreement deal without a strike. A strike vote is a common and useful part of the collective bargaining process, and a strong mandate shows the employer that you are serious, and that you fully support your negotiating committee,” Voci said.
He added that voting “yes” does not mean that dockworkers will go on strike. “It means the union can go on strike in the next 60 days with a 72-hour strike notice to the employer,” he said.
ILWU Canada and BCMEA are negotiating to replace the eight-year contract that 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. The last major strike was in 1935, which was called by a predecessor union.