B.C. Longshore Workers Approve New Contract

Image: BC Maritime Employers Association.
Image: ILWU Canada.

After a second vote, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada members have agreed to accept a labor contract negotiated between union leadership and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association, the ILWU revealed Aug. 4.

The BCMEA and ILWU Canada had originally agreed to a deal on July 13, but rank and file members voted the proposal down on July 28, thereby putting the agreement in jeopardy.

But on Aug. 2, leaders of ILWU Canada recommended that its 7,400 members approve the tentative new deal and during the Aug. 3-4 tally, about 75% of members voted to ratify the contract, according to an Aug. 4 union statement.

This ends a six-month negotiating period that included a 13-day strike that suspended cargo movement in British Columbia. Longshore workers returned to the waterfront in mid-July following a tentative four-year agreement – the same one that a majority of members wound up rejecting in late July.

The ILWU and BCMEA began contract talks in February; the longshore union was particularly focused on three main objectives – protections from contracting out work, automation and high inflation, along with cost-of-living issues.

The BCMEA had said that a sticking point in negotiations was the union’s attempt to include work currently outside its jurisdiction and expand the scope of regular maintenance work beyond what is set out in the previous contract.

“Changing this definition,” the BCMEA said in a July statement, “would result in immediate and significant impacts to terminal operations.”

The previous contract expired March 31, but labor stayed on the job until negotiations broke down, leading to the July 1 strike that lasted almost two weeks.

By Mark Edward Nero