Premier David Eby Wednesday (June 28) said he is “profoundly worried” about the potential impact of a strike at B.C. ports after the union representing port workers said its members are ready to walk off the job on Saturday.
The 72-hour strike notice issued by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada means workers could hit the bricks July 1 at 8 p.m. The notice affects about 7,400 terminal cargo loaders and 49 of the province’s waterfront employers in more than 30 B.C. ports.
Eby said British Columbians have already seen costs rise because of disrupted supply chains during the pandemic period.
“(To) see the potential for a strike to cause even further costs for British Columbians is very concerning for me, at a time when British Columbians cannot afford that,” he said.
“I really encourage the longshore workers…as well as the port authority to sit down at the table to work out a deal, encourage the federal government to be there to support both sides and reach a deal in this very important area of federal responsibility,” he said.
He added that British Columbians deserve a port system that works efficiently and keeps down some of the cost increases down, which they are seeing right now.
Negotiations between the union and the BC Maritime Employers Association started in February in an attempt to reach an agreement before their contract expired at the end of March.
Both sides have been in a cooling-off period but that ended on June 21.
Union members voted 99.24 per cent in favour of strike action earlier this month.
The union said in a statement Wednesday that contracting out, port automation and cost of living are key issues in the dispute.
“Longshore workers kept this province and the country running during the pandemic, and when Canadians were told to shelter in place, our people went to work,’ the statement said.
“We worked in difficult and hazardous conditions to ensure that the communities where we live, and all Canadians, had the necessary supplies and personal protective equipment to defend against the COVID 19 virus.”
The union said management continues to demand concessions.
The Maritime Employers Association has not commented on the strike notice, but said in a statement Tuesday that both sides continue to meet with the assistance of a federal mediator and that bargaining was expected to go into next week.