Monday, February 9, 2009

B.C. Port Labour Talks to Resume February 12

(Alberta Farmer – Alana Vannahme)

Federally appointed mediators have set February 12-13 as the next dates for contract negotiations between Local 514 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of Canada (ILWU) and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA).

The two groups have been trying for months to draft a new collective agreement and avoid a strike at B.C.’s busy Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert ports. The local’s members, roughly 450 ship and dock foremen, have been without a contract since March 2008. Since then, efforts to reach a labour agreement have been unsuccessful, including an intense round of negotiations which began in December after the local threatened to issue a 72-hour strike notice at the beginning of January.

In the event of a strike, it’s expected that more than 5,000 other ILWU members would support Local 514 by joining the picket line.

Some companies that rely on the busy West Coast gateways to transport goods in and out of Canada have been diverting their freight away from B.C. since the threat of a strike in January first emerged. However, the January 26 resumption of the House of Commons following a seven-week suspension has taken some of the uncertainty out of the situation.

If a strike were to occur now, the union’s members could be legislated back to work by the federal government, a move they have supported in the past.