Monday, 27 May 2019

Two thousand waterfront workers set to strike at Vancouver's key container terminals

An aerial view of GCT Canada facilities at Deltaport, in Delta B.C.Nick Souza/GCT Global Container / Vancouver Sun

Longshore workers are set to strike at key Port of Vancouver container terminals on Monday morning, wreaking havoc on Canada’s Asia-Pacific gateway and causing economic harm across Canada.
Roughly two thousand workers “will commence strike action at GCT Deltaport and GCT Vanterm on May 27, 2019 at or about 7 a.m.,” reads the strike notice from Robert Ashton, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada to Eric Waltz, the president of Global Container Terminals Canada.
The letter, sent Thursday, was leaked to Postmedia News.
Deltaport is by far the largest container terminal of the four in Vancouver, Canada’s busiest port. If it and Vanterm on the Vancouver side of Burrard Inlet are shut down, it would cripple most of the port’s container traffic. And, depending on how the union’s picket lines are set up, other terminals could be affected.
The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest, and the third largest in North America by tonnes of cargo. It handles the bulk of Canada’s trade with Asia, including container terminals, grain terminals, coal terminals and a host of other facilities.
GCT Canada is one of several port employers which are part of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, which bargains on their behalf. It has been negotiating a new contract with 6,000 waterfront workers, belonging mostly to the ILWU Canada, since their contract expired in March 2018.

While the strike action is aimed at GCT’s Deltaport and Vanterm terminals, picket lines could hamper operations at all Port of Vancouver facilities. Arlen Redekop /  PNG

Jeff Scott, chair of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, said he knew of the 72-hour strike notice, but did not know why the union is targeting GCT Canada and its two terminals.
“It is an unfortunate step,” Scott said. “We’re deeply concerned about the economic impact that a potential strike could have on the economic security of Canada, and the Canadian economy as a whole.”
In February 2011, before the last collective agreement was struck, an official at the employers’ association said a full-scale port strike would cost the Canadian economy $100 million a day. That number would be far higher today.
Union president Ashton said he had no comment, when contacted on Thursday night by Postmedia.
Ashton’s last public comment was on May 10, when he issued a news release stating the union had received a 98.4 per cent mandate from members “to take strike action if necessary to negotiate a new contract at ports throughout British Columbia.”
At that time, Ashton said talks with the B.C. Maritime Employers Association were scheduled to resume the week of May 21 and that the union remained “optimistic an agreement could be reached successfully without job action.”
In that release, Ashton indicated members were primarily concerned about job losses due to automation.
Scott said he could not reveal what the stumbling blocks were in the current negotiations. He said the association remained focused on reaching a new agreement “in the interest of all parties.”
The letter to GCT Canada was also forwarded to the federal Department of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. Department officials could not be reached Thursday night. The federal government, rather than the province, has authority over labour relations at the port.
There have been 12 labour disruptions at the Port of Vancouver since 1969. There was a nine-day lockout in 1999, a one-day strike in 1998 and another strike in 1995. This resulted in 175 days lost, not counting 2005, when truckers withdrew their services for six weeks.
The ILWU Canada has several bargaining locals in B.C. The two that represent workers at Vanterm and Deltaport are Local 500 and Local 502. Workers in Prince Rupert are represented by Local 505 and Local 503 on Vancouver Island. There are also negotiations underway with Local 514 that represents waterfront foremen.
In 2018, shipments through the Port of Vancouver’s four container terminals reached a record 3.4 million 20-foot-equivalent containers. In Vancouver, containers arrive filled with appliances, clothing and other consumer goods — including auto parts and manufactured goods — and leave containing mostly grain, lumber and food products. The Port of Vancouver expects to reach container capacity soon and is working to expand terminals.

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#ITFDockers wish our Sister and Brothers at the ILWU-Canada good luck on the eve of strike action following a 98.4% strike mandate from the rank and file. ILWU-Canada has always been a safe harbour for seafarers in trouble, leading from the front in strong belief that solidarity is a two way street. Besides wages and pensions the major issue is automation. GCT has shown its workforce no respect. To the rank and file and officers of ILWU, we stand with you in struggle. #ITFDockers #wedotheheavylifting #ILWUCanada

International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sunday May 26, 2019 International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada to take limited and targeted job action Monday morning at GCT Deltaport and GCT Vanterm but all ports will remain open; no picket lines will go up, says union, as contract talks continue VANCOUVER – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and ILWU Locals 500 and 502 will commence limited and targeted job action on or about 7 a.m. Monday May 27 in ILWU’s efforts to negotiate a new collective agreement. That limited and targeted job action – such as an overtime ban - will be carried out at GCT Deltaport in the municipality of Delta and at GCT Vanterm in Vancouver only, says ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton. “Contrary to comments made by employers to the media, all terminals will remain open for business and ILWU-Canada and its locals will not put up picket lines at this time. Our goal is to keep the ports open with minimal disruption to trade,” Ashton said. The union has been attempting through 18 months of negotiations to renew the industry collective agreement that expired March 31, 2018. ILWU Canada remains committed to bargaining a reasonable deal for our members, a deal that ensures the prosperity and stability of the gateway and addresses our members’ concerns over automation of the workplace and the potential devastation to our communities. “We made the difficult decision to exercise our constitutional right to engage in job action because all other means have failed to achieve an agreement,” says Ashton. “We remain optimistic that a fair deal can be achieved through the constitutionally protected bargaining process.” The ILWU Canada bargaining committee is currently at the bargaining table this weekend with federal mediators. The union received a 98.4% strike vote mandate earlier this month. For more information: Robert Ashton, President of ILWU Canada at 604-254-8141 or cell 604-862-8141 or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, cell 778-896-0964 or Jim Thompson in Ottawa 1-613-447-9592�Website:

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