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Weeklong dock strike in Canada starting to pinch small businesses, say experts

AP – Canadian consumers aren’t yet feeling the impact of the weekold port strike in British Columbia, but businesses are beginning to be pinched by the shutdown of docks that handle 25 per cent of the country’s foreign trade, experts said on Friday.

The strike by 7,400 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada began on July 1 and shut down more than 30 west coast ports.

Vice president and deputy leader of government relations at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Robin Guy said the affected ports handle cargo worth over CAD800 million (USD600 million) every day.

“It affects us, it affects people internationally who are relying on Canadian goods to be delivered,” Guy said.

Director of government relations for the Retail Council of Canada Greg Wilson, said he didn’t expect Canadian consumers to “really see significant impacts for weeks.”

It’s a different story, he said, for small businesses that operate on slim margins and are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Striking International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada workers march to a rally. PHOTO: AP

“If you’re a small retailer, if your goods are stuck, wow are you annoyed,” Wilson said. Large retailers have more flexibility, he added.

“They have supply chain professionals (who) can work to divert containers” to other ports.” Senior economist with the Bank of Montreal Robert Kavcic said businesses that export products like potash, fertiliser or forest goods are being squeezed.

The British Columbia Council of Forest Industries issued a statement on Friday urging the parties to resolve the walkout.

It said the shutdown ports handle forest products exports worth about CAD15 billion annually.

Business groups and the provincial governments in Alberta and Saskatchewan have called on the national government to force an end to the strike.

Some are frustrated the government used legislation in 2021 to end a walkout by Port of Montreal dock workers after only one day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference on Friday that he believes the best deals are reached at the bargaining table.