The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada has filed a “notice of dispute” with the Canadian federal government’s Minister of Labor, asking for assistance in negotiating a new contract with maritime employers. The existing contract between ILWU Canada and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) expired at the end of March. The two sides have had five face-to-face bargaining sessions since formal negotiations began on March 6, but the union is seeking significant wage increases, and the automation of cargo-handling equipment remains a source of tension.
The federal government has appointed two senior conciliation officers to assist with the negotiations. They will have 60 days to resolve the issues, after which a 21-day cooling-off period will begin. If the negotiations remain unresolved, a strike or lockout could occur in late June. The longer the negotiations take and the more contentious they become, the more likely exporters and importers are to migrate cargo away from the West Coast.
ILWU Canada and its 12 locals in Western Canada represent 7,400 unionized dockworkers and foremen employed at Canada’s West Coast ports, while the BCMEA represents container lines and terminal operators. In addition to wage increases, the union is concerned about job security in light of the proposed $3.5-billion container terminal’s automation, which it believes would have far-reaching implications for the industry.
1. ILWU Canada triggers federal intervention in contract talks with employers, Journal of Commerce, Mar 22, 2023. Accessed Apr 13, 2023.
2. Analysis: West Coast dockworker contract talks hit initial hurdle, Business in Vancouver, Mar 30, 2023. Accessed Apr 13, 2023.
3. Vancouver port squares off with union over automation at proposed container terminal, The Globe and Mail, Mar 22, 2023. Accessed Apr 13, 2023.