21 Jul Is the B.C. Port Workers Strike Over? Labour Minister’s Office Hints Yes
After days of uncertainty and speculation, the British Columbia (B.C.) port workers’ strike appears to be coming to an end. The federal labour minister’s office recently hinted that the strike is no longer in effect, and workers are expected to return to their duties on Thursday. This update comes after the port workers’ union abruptly removed its second 72-hour strike notice without providing an explanation.
The strike situation had been characterized by a lack of communication from both the union and the employer, leaving many to wonder about the reasons behind the strike’s removal. However, the spokesperson for Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan informed Global News that the office believes the strike is now over and expressed hope that the union will ratify the current tentative deal on the table.
The tentative agreement that may have ended the strike was proposed by a mediator who received direction from Ottawa to table the offer. This deal played a crucial role in bringing an end to the 13-day strike action that occurred the previous week. However, the union’s leadership rejected the proposal on Tuesday before bringing it to a full member vote. This led to the workers briefly resuming their picket lines on Wednesday.
Earlier on the same day, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) ruled that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) must halt its job action as it failed to provide the required 72 hours’ notice for the strike. In response, the union issued a new strike notice with a deadline set for Saturday. However, shortly after its issuance, the ILWU removed the notice without explanation.
The situation escalated to the point where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened the Incident Response Group, a group of cabinet ministers and senior government officials, to discuss the strike and potential federal responses. Trudeau emphasized the critical importance of resuming operations in the ports as soon as possible, given the impact on Canadians and the economy.
The strike’s resumption was met with strong reactions from political leaders. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed Trudeau’s “total incompetence” for causing the job action, demanding immediate action to end the strike. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra stated that the government is exploring options to address the situation.
Despite the strike’s removal, stakeholders, including the Freight Management Association of Canada, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, and the Retail Council of Canada, have called on the federal government to pass back-to-work legislation to ensure the stability of supply chains and protect Canadian jobs and the economy.
The strike, which took place from July 1 to 13, had significant economic consequences, with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade estimating losses of approximately $10 billion in trade. The halt in shipments affected about 30 ports in B.C., including Canada’s largest, the Port of Vancouver.
As the situation unfolds, the government’s priority is to find the fastest and most effective resolution to prevent further disruptions and restore stability to the region’s ports and supply chains.