Premier David Eby said he is looking for a “rapid solution” to the resumed labour dispute at ports in British Columbia but signalled his opposition to federal legislation.
Eby said during an unrelated announcement Wednesday (July 19) in Campbell River that both the BC Maritime Employers Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada will have to show good faith to resolve the dispute, which seemed resolved after a strike of nearly two weeks, only to flare up again.
Longshore workers Tuesday afternoon struck again after their union leadership had rejected a tentative mediated deal on grounds that employers had not addressed cost of living issues. Canada Industrial Relations Board has deemed the strike illegal because the union did not provide 72-hour-notice, something it has since done. The federal government has hinted at legislating an end to the strike, something Eby said will take too much time.
“They were so close and waiting for the federal government to pass legislation in a minority parliament in Ottawa is not going to be effective in getting the parties back to the table, getting them talking and resolving whatever issues continue to separate them…”
Disputes about the nature of strike and the language of federal labour code won’t get ports moving again, Eby added.
“What gets the port moving is the parties at the table working at nailing down the final issues that separate them.”
Some 7,400 longshore workers first went on strike on July 1. The tentative agreement was first announced on July 14.
Federal Labour Seamus O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a joint statement that they have been patient in respecting the collective bargaining process, but added the ports need to operate.
“The deal presented to the parties was the result of a constructive and substantive collective bargaining process,” they said. “It represented a fair and balanced deal. It was informed by weeks of collective bargaining and drafted by third-party mediators in the interest of both the union and the employer.”
Business organizations have also lamented the continued absence of labour peace.
Fiona Famulak, BC Chamber of Commerce CEO, said her organization is disappointed by the union’s rejection of the tentative agreement.
“Our port infrastructure is critical to the health and success of our businesses, workers and national economy.”
She added that the strike had already dragged for too long when the tentative deal was announced.
“With an estimated $9.7 billion of cargo disrupted since July 1, it is untenable for the labour dispute to continue further,” she said. “The federal government needs to use every resource at its disposal to bring the parties together and bring a swift end to the strike.”