Dockworkers return to work Thursday afternoon after all-night negotiations.
The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and ILWU–Canada said Thursday they have “come to a tentative contract agreement,” ending a lockout of workers just hours after it began.
BCMEA said the agreement will “allow all BC ports to be a competitive, efficient and reliable gateway for the benefit of all Canadians. The tentative agreement is subject to ratification.”
Negotiations resumed at noon Wednesday and after another round of discussions at the bargaining table, a tentative agreement was reached Thursday morning.
The lockout across the British Columbia waterfront was lifted and operations were set to resume for the 1630 shift Thursday. The ILWU said no details of the tentative agreement will be released pending ratification of the contract by ILWU members.
“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the ILWU. We appreciate the efforts of both parties to focus on reaching agreement and ensuring BC ports remain open for business. The lockout has been lifted and we look forward to getting operations back to normal,” said Jeff Scott, chair of the board of BCMEA
“We would like to thank the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) and in particular, Peter Simpson and Kathy Peters, as well as the minister of Labour, The Honourable Patty Hajdu, for their assistance in this process. We are confident that this agreement, once signed, will secure a positive long-term outlook for trade and operations at our terminals, for the province and for the country,” said Scott.
The tentative agreement would replace a contract that expired in March 2018. The contract covers 6,500 ILWU dockworkers.
Rob Ashton, the president of ILWU Canada, said an issue in the contract discussions was “the insistence of the BCMEA to unilaterally introduce technological changes in port operations.”
Opposition to automation has become a major issue for longshore unions in the U.S. as well.
The ILWU is seeking to block efforts by APM Terminals to use automated equipment at Pier 400 in Los Angeles that it says would displace longshore work.
The International Longshoremen’s Association, which represents East and Gulf Coast dockworkers in the U.S., issued a statement Wednesday applauding ILWU Canada’s opposition to automation. The ILA said its contract negotiated last year “offered full protection against automated ports for the life of the contract and we believe ILWU Canada has the right and obligation to do the same.”