Dockworkers in Canada’s West Coast have voted to accept an improved labour contract bringing a month-long dispute that stifled shipping operations at Canada’s busiest ports to an end.
According to a statement released on 4 August, 74.66 per cent of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) registrants had voted in favour of the latest deal.
On 30 July, the union tentatively accepted a new contract, preventing an imminent strike. However, the approval of workers was still required for the agreement to be finalised.
In response to the rejection of a previous contract by the workers, the Canadian government instructed the Canada Industrial Relations Board to intervene and mediate the dispute, reported Reuters. The government’s aim was to ensure the operation of two of Canada’s busiest ports, namely Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Labour, along with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), announced the ratification of the deal by the ILWU.
“The renewed collective agreement includes increases in wages, benefits, and training that recognises the skills and efforts of B.C.’s waterfront workforce, while providing certainty and stability for the future of Canada’s West Coast ports,” the BCMEA said in a statement.
O’Regan stated that he had instructed federal authorities to investigate the underlying causes of the disruptions that led to such significant economic consequences. The goal was to safeguard future stability and prevent a recurrence of such a significant supply chain disruption in Canada, reported Reuters.
While business groups expressed their approval of the deal, they also urged the federal government to devise new ways for addressing similar disputes in the future.
“Our supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link,” Robin Guy, Vice President of Canadian Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
“Following over 35 days of disruption to our West Coast ports, it’s time for the government to consider providing new tools that can be used in the face of labour disputes in sectors that are critical to Canada’s supply chain.”
The ILWU, a labour union representing approximately 7,500 dock workers, engaged in several months of negotiations with the BCMEA. Discord surrounding pay and a suggestion to broaden the union’s authority to include routine maintenance tasks within terminals resulted in a 13-day strike occurring in July.
The contract negotiation disputes have caused significant disruptions in trade worth billions of dollars, leading to concerns about potentially contributing to inflation, reported Reuters.