Skip to content

Researcher warns against intervention as B.C. port workers vote concludes

International Longshore and Warehouse Union cast ballots on new contract Thursday and Friday
Gantry cranes sit idle as a container ship is docked at port during a work stoppage, in Vancouver, on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. Voting among British Columbia port workers on a new agreement with employers is scheduled to conclude today, with the result deciding whether the months-long labour dispute will end or continue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A labour researcher says he hopes the federal government doesn’t rush to intervene in British Columbia’s port dispute, even if union members reject a tentative deal with employers today.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada concludes the two-day vote at 6 p.m., after a tumultuous period that included a 13-day shutdown of more than 30 port terminals and other sites last month.

McGill University associate professor Barry Eidlin says he hopes the federal government lets the dispute be resolved at the negotiating table, regardless of the vote’s outcome.

He says the prospect of federal intervention represents “backsliding to a past era” when workers’ fundamental rights weren’t respected.

The tentative contract between the union and the BC Maritime Employers Association was announced on Sunday, a day after federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan directed the Canada Industrial Relations Board to impose a deal or binding arbitration if it decides a negotiated resolution isn’t possible.

Union leaders say workers’ key concerns relate to automation and the contracting out of maintenance work, both of which present fundamental challenges to the future of port jobs.

The strike from July 1 to 13 ended when a previous tentative deal was struck, but union members rejected it in a vote on July 28, triggering O’Regan’s order for the industrial relations board to get involved.

READ ALSO: Industrial Relations Board directed to review and potentially end B.C. port dispute

READ ALSO: Industrial board warns union bosses not to backtrack on new B.C. port deal