B.C. port workers vote to accept new contract

International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada 77% in favour of new deal with BC Maritime Employers

Longshore dispatch hall in Vancouver | Chung Chow

Members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) have voted 77.18% in favour of accepting a new contract with the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA).

Results of the vote were released June 21.

The tentative agreement was reached May 30 following an all-night bargaining session that ended a BCMEA lockout and the threat of a full-blown strike by ILWU members.

The four-day port labour dispute marked the climax in contract negotiations that had dragged on since the expiration of the previous eight-year deal at the end of March 2018.

Details of the new contract have yet to be released, but the ILWU’s acceptance of the deal is good news for B.C. ports and Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway and trade corridor at a time when transpacific trade growth is being slowed by the ongoing trade dispute between China and the United States and diplomatic tensions between Canada and China continue to rise over the Huawei affair.

Pressure to reach an agreement between the BCMEA and 6,000-member ILWU intensified following the successful negotiation of new collective agreements between longshore unions and port employers in the United States.

In July 2017, the U.S. International Longshore and Warehouse Union signed a three-year extension of its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association. The original collective agreement ended a standoff that stalled cargo movement through major West Coast U.S. ports from mid-2014 through early 2015 and diverted some of that traffic north to the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

Last September, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) ratified an agreement with the United States Maritime Alliance. The six-year deal helps ensure labour and port service stability at East Coast U.S. and Gulf of Mexico ports until 2024.

As of Monday, the BCMEA had not ratified the new contract with ILWU Canada.