Canadian Minister claims ports strike could be near end

Canada’s Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan Jr has said that an agreement was now within sight between employers and striking workers at the Canadian west coast ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

The minister asserted that, after almost 11 days of strike action that was beginning to impact the Canadian economy, the difference between the positions held by the employers and the ILWU Canada union was not sufficient to justify a continued work stoppage.

“As a result of the hard work by the parties at the bargaining table, there is a good deal within reach – one that would work for both the employer and the union,” O’Regan said in a statement that he subsequently posted on Twitter.

The BC Maritime Employers Association on Tuesday said Minister O’Regan has given the senior federal mediator 24 hours to provide him with his recommendations for the settlement of this dispute. Once received, the Minister will share the mediator’s recommendations with the employers’ representative body and with the union. They will have 24 hours to review and communicate their willingness to recommend the terms for ratification to their respective Members.

The industry-wide collective agreement expired on March 31st. Talks had been underway since February, but until two weeks ago there were intimations that little progress had been made.

The strike officially began on July 1st.

The union representatives did not seem to be showing any signs of compromise. ILWU Canada president Rob Ashton said in a news release that the employers claim longshore workers “are greedy and resistant to change and must be forced back to work through legislation to protect the national economy”, adding that “the federal government would not intervene to impose contract terms on the shipping companies, protecting Canadians from cost and disruption, and it’s sheer hypocrisy to now argue that government should force longshore workers back to work”.