B.C. port workers ratify four-year deal, prompting federal review to avoid further disruptions

The employers said workers rejected the previous deal granting them a four−year pay increase from $136,000 to $162,000 annually and securing a $3,000 signing bonus for each full-time worker.

B.C. port workers ratify four-year deal, prompting federal review to avoid further disruptions
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld and Facebook/ Seamus O'Regan
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After weeks of back and forth, federal port workers on the west coast will return to work after overwhelmingly supporting their most recent contract offer.

According to president Rob Ashton of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), 74.66% supported the agreement ratification vote, reported The Canadian Press.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan confirmed the result over social media.

Though light on details, the ILWU said the four−year deal "includes increases in wages, benefits and training that recognizes the skills and efforts of B.C.'s waterfront workforce."

The new collective bargaining agreement covers approximately 7,400 workers at over 30 port terminals, with the membership rejecting a prior deal on July 28.

The employers said workers rejected the previous deal granting them a four−year pay increase from $136,000 to $162,000 annually and securing a $3,000 signing bonus for each full-time worker.

The union workers had been without a collective agreement since the last deal expired on March 31.

Two days later, the union and employers met on July 30 to hash out an agreement in the presence of a board mediator. They reminded union officials that sudden changes to their position would constitute an 'unfair labour practice.'

The Canada Industrial Relations Board gave the union until August 4 to complete the ratification vote with a media blackout in place.

Ultimately, the 13−day strike froze billions in goods, aggravating neighbouring provinces.

On Saturday, Alberta's transport minister called on the federal government to deliver "more stability and predictability" after considerable disruptions to the nation's supply chains.

Devin Dreeshen said the landlocked province could not afford further economic disruptions. 

"We urge the federal government to bring forward mechanisms that provide more stability and predictability in the segments of Canada's supply chain within its jurisdiction," he said in a statement issued Saturday. "Class 1 rail, ports, and airports are critical pieces of infrastructure."

O'Regan has since directed federal officials to review the case to avoid another significant port disruption.

"The dispute caused serious disruptions to our supply chains, risking our strong international reputation as a reliable trading partner. We do not want to be back here again," he said.

On July 13, O'Regan announced "the strike is over," with the union and employers accepting a settlement from federal mediators and work resuming at the ports.

On July 18, union leadership rejected the mediated settlement, sending workers back to the picket lines without seeking a membership vote or first notifying the industrial relations board at least 72 hours prior.

On July 19, workers returned to work while the union filed a notice to strike, only to pull it hours later.

Before the ratification vote, the ongoing dispute spurred talks from politicians and business leaders to invoke 'back-to-work' legislation, though nothing came to fruition.

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