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B.C. port strike enters day 7 as union, employers association trade barbs

ILWUC says the BC Maritime Employers Association has walked away from the table 3 times
Striking port workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada attend a rally, in Vancouver, on Thursday, July 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Opposition members of the British Columbia legislature have added their voices to business and political groups demanding action to end a week-old strike at more than 30 west coast ports.

A statement issued Friday by BC United members Greg Kyllo and Ben Stewart said New Democrat Premier David Eby must call on the federal government to intervene in the job action between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and the organization that represents port employers.

“While premiers from other provinces have voiced their concerns, Premier David Eby and NDP Labour Minister Harry Bains have remained silent as the strike’s effects continue to escalate,” Kyllo said in the statement.

The BC Maritime Employers Association, which represents B.C. ports, issued a statement Thursday that said it had learned of layoffs in related industries due to the job action.

It said the strike had potentially disrupted $4.6 billion worth of cargo since it began on Canada Day.

The B.C. Council of Forest Industries was also calling for federal intervention or for dock workers and port employers to reach a quick resolution.

The organization’s chief economist, Kurt Niquidet, said some forest companies were mulling shipments by rail or truck to get their lumber to the United States, but that was not an option for companies needing access to Asian markets, he said.

About 7,400 longshore workers voted overwhelmingly for strike action to seek improved wages and provisions against contracting out and automation.

There have been no talks since Monday when the two sides hit an impasse over maintenance issues.

The employers association has called for the union to return to bargaining under “a voluntary mediation-arbitration process.”

Union president Rob Ashton told a solidarity rally on Thursday that the BC Maritime Employers Association has walked away from the table three times.

He told the crowd gathered near the Port of Vancouver that the employers were waiting for the federal government to do their “dirty work instead of treating workers with respect” by negotiating.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan has urged the two sides to use mediators and resume talks, while officials in Alberta and Saskatchewan agree with the BC United members, Council of Forest Industries and other groups demanding federal legislation to end the strike.

READ ALSO: Union says B.C. port employers want government to do dirty work to end strike