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Labour dispute shuts down Canada’s west coast ports

MONTREAL (AFP) – Workers at Canada’s busiest port in Vancouver and at harbours up and down the nation’s west coast stopped work last Saturday in a labour dispute that is likely to disrupt global freight transport.

After months of failed talks, more than 7,000 terminal cargo loaders and 49 waterfront employers in 30 ports went on strike.

Port automation, the rising cost of living and outsourcing are key issues behind the collective action led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Union leadership “has not taken this decision lightly, but for the future of our workforce we had to take this step, ,President of the union’s Canadian branch Rob Ashton said in a statement.

He remained positive, however, about reaching a “collective agreement for the rights of (the) working class!”

International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers picket outside of the BC Maritime Employers Association Dispatch Center after a 72-hour strike notice and no agreement made on the bargaining table in Vancouver, Canada. PHOTO: AP

The union’s last contract expired on March 31.

For its part, the BC Maritime Employers Association said it has “made repeated efforts to be flexible and find compromise on key priorities” without success.

“We appreciate the assistance of federal mediators in supporting the parties and we remain open to any solutions that bring about a balanced agreement,” said the trade group, which represents ship and port owners and terminal operators.

On Friday, the association had indicated that a possible strike would not affect cruise ships docking in Vancouver, Prince Rupert and on Vancouver Island.

Members of the BC Maritime Employers Association transport goods across Canada and to the United States (US), including automobiles, coal, grain and containers.

A strike would have repercussions in US and other markets that receive goods through Canada.