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Union dismisses Canadian West Coast ports employers complaint

Port of Vancouver Cranes by the water at Port of Vancouver
A union official has dismissed a BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) complaint against the foremen’s union as just “drama” following the resolution of the main contract negotiations.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in Canada’s western province of British Columbia, ratified a four-year deal in the summer of last year ending a long-running dispute with the BCMEA.

Employers then entered into negotiations with the foremen’s union which have run into trouble with the BCMEA fearing the union may invoke the 72-hour strike notice following the end of a three-week cooling off period last month. To date no such notice has been issued.

However, the BCMEA issued a statement last week: “The BCMEA has been advancing proposals in pursuit of a balanced agreement that benefits the 730 hardworking forepersons and their families, while also ensuring B.C.’s ports remain competitive and affordable for all Canadians.”

The statement went on to accuse the union of intransigence with the employer’s representative filing a complaint to that effect with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).

The complaint comes around six months after Canada’s Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan Jr, announced a review of the collective bargaining process in what the government sees as a critical element of the supply chain.

The Office of the Minister of Labour said in a statement that, “Federal mediators are supporting the parties at our West Coast ports to reach a deal at the table.”

Asked if the government would ban strikes in the key port sector a spokesmen replied “No”, with the further elaboration, on the subject by the Ministry: “Our government believes in collective bargaining because the best deals are made at the bargaining table. We’ve seen it firsthand through past disputes – collective bargaining works and has helped avert disruptions to our supply chains. We always encourage both parties to work together to resolve the issues and reach an agreement.”

Hope for a negotiated settlement remains, however, with the BCMEA ending its statement: “We continue to believe that the best deals are achieved at the table and remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with the continued support of FMCS [Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service].”

Seatrade Maritime News contacted Frank Morena, the president of ILWU Local 514, who is negotiating with the BCMEA, for comment, but a spokeswoman said he would not speak to the press.

TAGS: Americas