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U.S. Pacific Coast docker work actions could spread to Canada’s West Coast

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada has authorized its longshore locals to conduct a vote on June 9 and June 10 on whether to issue a 72-hour notice on staging a strike. Such threatened action, which would notably severely hit cargo operations at the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, comes as dockworkers on the U.S. West Coast have for four days taken industrial actions causing shutdowns at a number of container terminals.

The disruptive work actions carried out by the ILWU in the United States have effectively shut down operations at some marine terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, said the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). “The Union is also staging similar work actions that have shut down or severely impacted terminal operations at the Ports of Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, and Hueneme.”

ILWU President Willie Adams, President of ILWU, stated: “We aren’t going to settle for an economic package that doesn’t recognise the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits.”

The ILWU affirms that PMA member carriers and terminal operators made huge profits of US$510 billion during the pandemic, while union workers risked and lost their lives during the same period “to ensure grocery store shelves were stocked, personal protective equipment (PPE) was made available, medical supplies were reaching hospitals, and record volumes of consumer goods continued to reach the door steps of American consumers while also enabling the shipping industries’ astronomical revenues.”

“Despite this fact, from pre-pandemic levels through 2022, the percentage of ILWU wages and benefits continued to drop compared to PMA rising revenues.”

The union stressed it is “committed to bargaining a contract that is fair and equitable, including wages and benefits that reflect the dedication of the ILWU workforce and its contributions to the shipping industry’s success.”

“Any reports that negotiations have broken down are false,” commented Mr.  Adams, as the ILWU and PMA continue to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement.

The existing five-year ILWU contract with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) expired at the end of March. Among other issues, Canadian West Coast dockworkers are seeking significant wage increases amidst the prospect of greater automation of cargo-handling equipment under planned expansions of container terminal capacities.

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