Dockers in British Columbia issue new 72-hour strike notice after order to resume strike Ship’s crew

Reuters

By Chris Helgren and Steve Scherer

VANCOUVER, July 19 (Reuters) – Striking dockers on Canada’s Pacific coast issued a new 72-hour notice of a strike on Wednesday, just hours after a federal regulator ruled their current walkout was illegal.

Amid mounting calls for decisive government action to end the strike, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will call an Incident Response Group meeting later on Wednesday, his travel itinerary shows. The group, made up of high-ranking officials and ministers, only meets in the event of a crisis.

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.

An ILWU official later said over the phone the union issued a new 72-hour strike notice on Wednesday and workers were able to walk away early on Saturday. The union said it would respect the CIRB ruling.

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, ILWU leaders rejected a four-year interim contract 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.

Before news of the new strike listing broke, Secretary of Labor Seamus O’Regan said the termination was illegal.

“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 examining all options.

The 72-hour strike notice means Ottawa has until early Saturday to enforce legislation that will force workers to return to their posts, a move supported by the Alberta and Saskatchewan premierships, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, as well as Canadian manufacturers and exporters is encouraged.

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 backed by unions — 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 and David Ljunggren; Editing by Chris Reese, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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