Feds, provinces denounce 'illegal' B.C. port strike as union rejects federal deal

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) rejected the four-year agreement despite proposed wage hikes exceeding the 10% increases workers received over the past three years.

Feds, provinces denounce 'illegal' B.C. port strike as union rejects federal deal
Facebook/ Danielle Smith, Seamus O'Regan, and Scott Moe
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Thousands of B.C. port workers have resumed their contentious strike after union reps rejected a tentative agreement received last week.

Rob Ashton, the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU), denounced the four-year agreement as "far too long" given future economic uncertainties in the industry.

They rejected the deal despite the proposed wage hikes exceeding the 10% increases workers had received over the past three years.

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than 7,400 workers returned to the picket lines at 30 port terminals across the province.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan called the renewed strike action "illegal," as the union failed to give 72-hour notice before striking, according to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).

The B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) told The Canadian Press that ILWU Canada only sent the deal to some members before rejecting its tenets. They added that resuming strike action was "unnecessary and reckless."

The BCMEA said the ILWU received a "fair and balanced deal" and that by striking, the union is "doubling down on holding the Canadian economy hostage."

The strike froze billions of dollars worth of imports and exports, including at the Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince George.

"Our position since day one has been to protect our jurisdiction, and this position has not changed," said ILWU Canada in a statement.

"With the record profits that the BCMEA's member companies have earned over the last few years, the employers have not addressed the cost of living issues that our workers have faced over the last couple of years as all workers have."

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith demanded the federal government reconvene Parliament to implement back-to-work legislation amid news that negotiations fell through.

"Canadians have had enough! The federal government must reconvene parliament and legislate these workers return to work," Smith tweeted on Tuesday. 

"Albertans and Canadians cannot afford to have hundreds of millions of dollars daily in products delayed at these ports. And the longer this strike continues, the more Canada's credibility as a reliable trading partner is damaged."

"The federal Labour Minister just said the port strike is illegal," added Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. "It's effectively an illegal blockade preventing Canadian goods from getting to market, damaging our economy and killing jobs."

He concurred with Smith that the federal government must act immediately to end the blockade.

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