Longshore workers set to strike at two Vancouver terminals

Longshore workers plan to strike at two container terminals of Port of Vancouver on May 27, threatening to disrupt Canada’s largest hub for maritime trade.

About 2,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) are slated to walk out at Global Container Terminals’ Deltaport and Vanterm terminals around 7:00 a.m. PDT. The union sent a notice to Global Container Terminals on May 23.

On May 10, the union announced that its British Columbia longshore workers had overwhelmingly voted to authorize a walkout amid federally mediated contract talks with the British Columbia Maritime Employers’ Association (BCMEA), which represents companies operating at the ports.

“We’re obviously very disappointed,” said Jeff Scott, chair of the BCMEA board of directors and CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks.

ILWU representatives could not be reached for comment. Scott said the BCMEA and ILWU would continue talks through the weekend.

“Bringing all the parties to the bargaining table and averting a labor disruption is our priority,” Scott said.

ILWU longshore workers have been without a contract since March 2018. Neither side has revealed their points of contention.

A strike at two Vancouver terminals would fall short of an across-the-board walk-out at the province’s ports. But it would have a serious impact. Deltaport is Vancouver’s largest terminal, with an annual capacity of 1.8 million twenty-foot-container-units (TEUs), while Vanterm can handle up to 850,000 TEUs.

Vancouver handled a record of 3.4 million TEUs in 2018.

Scott said it is unclear whether any cargo could be re-routed to other terminals or British Columbia ports in the event of a strike. He added that disruption could have long-lasting consequences.

“We complete with ports in other jurisdictions, like Seattle and Los Angeles,” Scott said. “The fear is any time you have a disruption, customers are going to look for alternatives.”

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Nate Tabak, Canada Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a journalist, editor and producer in Toronto. He covers Canada for FreightWaves, with a keen interest on the cross-border economic relationship with the United States. Nate spent seven years working as an investigative editor and reporter based in Kosovo. He covered everything from corruption to the country’s emerging wine industry. He also reported across the Balkans and investigated Albania’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Nate grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He enjoys exploring Toronto with his wife and is always looking forward to his next meal.

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