British Columbia longshoremen withdraw strike declaration Ship’s crew


By Chris Helgren and Steve Scherer

VANCOUVER, July 19 (Reuters) – Dockers on Canada’s Pacific coast said they had withdrawn a strike notice issued for Saturday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered an emergency meeting to consider all options to ensure supply chain stability while stressing the critical role of port operations.

The lifted strike notice was issued earlier Wednesday, just hours after a federal regulator ruled the current work stoppage by workers was unlawful.

“Effective immediately, the July 22 strike notice for 9:00 a.m. has been removed,” the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada said in a post on its website on Wednesday.

In the face of mounting calls for decisive government action to end the strike, Trudeau called a meeting of the Incident Response Group, made up of senior officials and ministers, who meet only in emergencies.

In a statement released after the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau had stressed the critical importance of resuming port operations as soon as possible, stating that workers and employers across Canada should not face further disruption.

“He asked ministers and senior officials for advice on how to achieve this goal and directed them to use all available options to ensure the stability of our supply chains and protect Canadian jobs and our economy,” the statement said.

The strike has upended operations in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, two of Canada’s three busiest ports, which are major transit hubs for the export of natural resources and commodities, as well as imports of commodities.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) regulator said the strike must end because the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) failed to meet the required 72-hour deadline before dismissing workers on Tuesday.

The union responded by issuing a new 72-hour strike notice, an ILWU official told Reuters by phone, before that notice was later retracted.

Around 7,500 dock workers have been demonstrating almost continuously in the two ports since July 1st. A Reuters witness said there were no signs of pickets in the Port of Vancouver on Wednesday.

On Tuesday the ILWU tour rejected a four-year interim deal agreed with employers less than a week ago, ending a 13-day strike.

The employers’ association accused the union of “holding the Canadian economy hostage”.

The strike is estimated to have affected CAD$6.5 billion (US$4.9 billion) worth of cargo traffic in the ports. Industry association Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters estimates that trade impacts approximately CA$500 million daily.

“My patience is running out,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters when asked if the government would pass a return-to-work bill, a politically sensitive move. He added that ministers are considering all options.

The Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian manufacturers and exporters have all advocated legislation to force workers to return to their jobs.

But David Eby, the left-wing prime minister of British Columbia’s New Democratic Party (NDP), said passing such legislation would take too long and urged both sides “to settle the matter around the table as soon as possible”.

The leader of the official federal opposition Conservative Party, Pierre Poilievre, previously said Trudeau should come up with a plan to end the strike within 24 hours, but did not say if he would support the back-to-work legislation.

The state NDP, a left-leaning opposition party traditionally supported by the union, has supported Trudeau’s minority government in passing legislation. Their leader, Jagmeet Singh, has ruled out supporting legislation to end the strike.

That means Trudeau would need the votes of the Conservatives, who have been trying to woo workers and unions, or the Quebecois separatist bloc.

It also means that the deal between the Liberals and the NDP that keeps the government running could come under pressure if Trudeau ends up forcing workers back to work.

($1 = 1.3181 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Chris Helgren in Vancouver and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil, David Ljunggren, Nia Williams and Juby Babu; Editing by Chris Reese, Jonathan Oatis, Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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