Small businesses hit the hardest by Canada’s West Coast strikes

Small businesses take biggest hit amid Canada's West Coast strikes

Small businesses have been heavily impacted by the ongoing strikes in Canada’s West Coast that have shutdown ports accumulatively responsible for 25 per cent of the country’s international trade.

According to The Washington Post, Canadian consumers yet have not felt the impact of the strikes carried out by 7,400 International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada members, shutting down over 30 ports in Canada’s West Coast.

The impacted ports, including Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, handle a cargo worth of over C$800 ($608.4 billion) million dollars every day, according to Robin Guy, Vice President, and Deputy Leader of Government Relations at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“It affects us, it affects people internationally who are relying on Canadian goods to be delivered,” Guy stated.

READ: Canada West Coast port labourers call to strike in unanimous vote

Additionally, Director of Government Relations for the Retail Council of Canada, Greg Wilson, predicted that Canadian consumers will not “really see significant impacts for weeks,” The Washington Post reported.

Small businesses that operate on fine margins, conversely, have suffered to a greater degree as they are yet to recover from the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Wilson.

“If you’re a small retailer, if your goods are stuck, wow are you annoyed.”

More specifically, businesses in the potash, fertiliser, and forest goods trade are being squeezed, according to Senior Economist with the Bank of Montreal, Robert Kavcic.

“The longer those outbound shipments get backed up, the more issues they have here domestically with inventories at their own location and possibly having to cut back production because of that.”

In a statement issued on 7 July, the British Columbia Council of Forest Industries insisted on negotiating parties to reach a settlement.

“Forest products are a major export for British Columbia, with about C$15 billion ($11 billion) worth of forest products exported annually,” the statement read.

“A prolonged dispute will erode market confidence and more importantly, directly impact our operations, our employees, and forestry-dependent communities around the province.”

Wilson further explained how the story is different for larger retailers who have more flexibility and “have supply chain professionals (who) can work to divert containers” to other operating ports.

READ: MSC’s Far East-Pacific Northwest route shift postponed due to Canada’s strikes

Business groups and provincial governments in Alberta and Saskatchewan are subsequently urging the national government to intervene and bring an end to the labour dispute, according to The Washington Post.

The strikes have inconveniently occurred at the start of the peak season when holiday and back-to-school goods are in high demand.

Trade organisations such as the American Apparel and Footwear Association and the National Retail Federation have urged the Canadian government to facilitate efforts to keep all parties engaged in negotiations.

Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to encourage negotiating parties to reconvene at the bargaining table as the optimal way of achieving the best deal, the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) held earlier this week that further negotiations would be futile.  

READ: Looming ILWU Canada’s strikes threaten supply chain once more

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