Press Release-ILWU Canada Longshore Bargaining Update 3JUL2023

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The Union has been bargaining with the Association in good faith since February 16, 2023. The ILWU Bargaining Committee is comprised of the highest-ranking officers in the Union and its Locals in addition to other experienced negotiators. The Union is intimately familiar with the Association and its bargaining strategies and the inappropriate make-up of their bargaining committee that is devoid of the real decision makers in the industry.

Early in the bargaining process the Union assessed very quickly that the Association was not willing to engage in any meaningful way on substantive issues based on our vast experience with how the Association approaches collective bargaining. Therefore, the Union issued notice of dispute in an effort to move the process along. The Parties have been involved with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) since April 2023.

The Association has accused the Union of trying to expand its scope of work beyond regular maintenance. The fact is that the Union has been raising the issue of the rampant contracting out of our maintenance work for years. Our focus in this round of bargaining has been to stop the erosion of jurisdiction and the extensive use of contractors.

With the assistance of the FMCS we have moved substantially from our original position re “Regular Maintenance”. We have made several attempts to address concerns the Association had with our original proposal on Article 26.01 (9) and the many versions of documents and proposals that followed.

When we finally had a document that was largely agreed upon as the result of continuous movement by the union on this one position the Association decided to change their position in an attempt to muddy the water and mischaracterize the work, we have spent months discussing. The BCMEA drew a line in the sand and ended the progress that had been made, so that the new maintenance document would have no ability to achieve the aims set out in it. The Association deliberately sabotaged the progress that had been made therefore we must question their motives and the appropriateness of the BCMEA bargaining committee to actually negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

Regarding the unions monetary positions, the Association characterized them as unreasonable and outside the norm of union settlements in Canada. We find this position consistent with how the Association approaches most issues. The member employers of the BCMEA have enjoyed record high profits for many years now and especially during the pandemic. The Union did not take the position that gorging on massive profits was unreasonable, but we did take the position that it is reasonable for the workers that helped to achieve those record profits in the first place to have a fair and equitable share of them.

The government gave a 7% increase to the minimum wage, recognizing the high cost of living. For another fair and balanced comparison, one would look at the transportation industry where employers have made their fair share of profits in which their employees were able to share in with similar increases in line with what the government has already recognized as reasonable.

We implore the BCMEA to get back to the table to achieve a fair and reasonable agreement that the parties negotiate together. It is unrealistic to think that a collective agreement that is imposed will result in long term labour stability in the industry. The Parties need to put their best effort forward for the entire country and not just their individual aims. We hope that the Association is not hiding behind the threat of back to work legislation and binding arbitration to avoid engaging in bargaining with the Union.

We hope the BCMEA is not using its vast resources and connections to vilify the Union and scare the public with tales of economic disaster. We hope the Association can rise to the occasion and engage in meaningful talks with the Union and get a deal done.

Rob Ashton

President – ILWU Canada


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