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Uncertainty at B.C. ports continues as possible deal emerges in labour dispute

B.C. port union local says new tentative deal reached with employers, report unconfirmed

The uncertainty at British Columbia ports persists as a union local for workers says that a tentative agreement has been reached between a union bargaining committee and employers, the latest development in a tumultuous week in the high-stakes labour dispute.

A statement on the website of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada Local 502 says that a tentative agreement has been reached with the BC Maritime Employers Association, and the ILWU will hold an “emergency contract caucus” today to decide if the deal will be sent to the full union membership for ratification.

Neither the ILWU nor the BCMEA confirmed the latest development.

Meanwhile, work resumed in Vancouver at Canada’s largest port on Thursday as ILWU returned on the job across the province after brief strike action on Tuesday.

This follows a week in the labour dispute that saw the union voting down a federal mediator’s terms, the union issuing but quickly rescinding a new 72-hour strike notice, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convening the federal incident response group.

The union had rejected a previous tentative deal brokered by a federal mediator that would have ended the dispute, which already caused a 13-day work stoppage at B.C. ports earlier this month.

Workers went back to their jobs this week after the Canada Industrial Relations Board ruled the brief strike on Tuesday was illegal because 72 hours’ notice had not been given.

Mark Thompson, University of British Columbia professor emeritus at the Sauder school of business, says while port strikes were common in the 1980s and 1990s, they weren’t allowed to drag on, unlike the latest dispute.

“The government (today) is very reluctant to enact back-to-work legislation, so we are in uncharted territory right now,” he said.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was unacceptable that the union rejected the tentative deal worked out with a mediator that had been agreed to by both sides.

READ ALSO: B.C. ports in limbo as union removes weekend strike notice