Dock workers and employers in Canada’s Pacific Port end 13-day strike with tentative wage deal

After a 13-day-long strike that disrupted trade and risked worsening inflation, the dock workers at ports along Canada’s Pacific coast and their employers accepted a tentative wage deal on Thursday. 

The BCMEA in a statement said, “The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada are pleased to advise that the parties have reached a tentative agreement on a new 4-year deal,” The ILWU also said there was an agreement, which must now be ratified by both sides.

The 13-day long strike which began on July 1st, was a result of the union failing to reach a new work contract with the BCMEA representing the companies involved.

The union had made demands including wage increases and expansion of their jurisdiction to regular maintenance work on terminals. When BCMEA was unable to meet these demands, some 7,500 dock workers represented by the ILWU walked off the job.

Due to this strike, operations at two of the three busiest ports in Canada, the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Prince Rupert – key gateways for exporting the country’s natural resources and commodities and bringing in raw materials were flipped over.

Economists worry that the strike could trigger more supply-chain disruptions and fuel inflation while the Bank of Canada tries to cool the economy.

“The scale of the disruption has been significant,” Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a joint statement, adding that “We do not want to be back here again. Deals like this, made between parties at the collective bargaining table, are the best way to prevent that.”

On Tuesday, O’Regan said the differences between the parties were not sufficient to justify a continued work stoppage.

He offered terms drafted by a federal mediator and gave the union and employers 24 hours to decide if they were satisfied. The deal was reached at 10:20 am PT (1720 GMT), 10 minutes before the deadline, the ILWU said.

BCMEA and ILWU, with help from federal mediators, had been negotiating a new contract since late April.

A survey released on Tuesday revealed that more than half of Canadian small business owners will be affected by the strike at the Port of Vancouver, according to preliminary results from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The strike is estimated to have disrupted C$6.5 billion of cargo movement at the ports, based on the industry body Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ calculation of about C$500 million in disrupted trade each day.

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