by Emily AtkinsJuly 5, 2023
Industry groups are warning of serious economic impacts if the BC dockworkers strike is allowed to continue.
The strike, now in it’s fifth day, started on July 1, after 7,400 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) walked off the job. Talks between the union and the employers, the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) Continued over the weekend, but stalled on the evening on July 3.
The work stoppage has affected 30 BC ports, including Vancouver and Prince Rupert.
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) called on all parties to negotiate an immediate end to the strike.
That was echoed by CN Rail, which serves the ports. “A labour disruption can create significant impacts on shippers’ decisions to use Canada’s ports,” CN’s Jonathan Abecassis said in a statement. “Given the integrated nature of ports and rail corridors, a work stoppage can create disruptions that take weeks or even months to correct.”
The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) warned of harm to Canada’s international reputation. “B.C.’s ports play an essential role in Canada’s mining supply chain, serving as central hubs for the transport of the critical minerals and metals essential to businesses both domestically and internationally,” said Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of MAC. “Canada’s reputation as a trusted producer of these materials is in question if we are unable to rely on our transportation networks to get them to market.”
In their June 28, 2023, statement, Seamus O’Regan, Mminister of labour, and Omar Alghabra, minister of transportation said that “Everyone — the employer, the union, the mediators, and the government — understands the urgency and what is at stake for Canadians and our supply chains.”
CME is urging the federal government to intervene now “to reassure manufacturers that they will not bear the brunt of a labour dispute that is beyond their control. A strike of this magnitude not only disrupts the Canadian economy but damages our global trading reputation, hurts already fragile supply chains, and puts jobs at risk.”
“Once again manufacturers are being held hostage and paying the cost of a labour disruption at one of Canada’s transportation hubs,” said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of CME. “We need government action now to prevent permanent damage to our economy and to Canada’s reputation as a serious trading partner.”
The impact of this labour disruption is being felt by manufacturers in all sectors across the country. Sixteen percent of the country’s total goods, worth approximately $500 million, is being disrupted every day.
CME is also asking the federal government to work with industry on legislative reforms that will discourage future disruptions to Canada’s critical trade infrastructure. The want ports, rail lines, and all other transportation infrastructure designated as essential, limiting when and where labour and other disruptions can occur.
“If we do not seriously address the root problems of Canada’s transportation network disruptions, and eliminate the incentives to time and game labour disruptions to inflict maximum economic pain, then it will just continue to be Groundhog Day – where every six months a disruption occurs, and manufacturers and Canadians are left to pay the economic costs,” added Darby.
“Immediate action from the federal government is required in order to minimize the serious negative effects to our broader economy and to maintain our standing as one of the key suppliers of the materials essential to the global energy transition and the needs of customers around the world,” MAC’s Gratton said.
“With the ongoing supply chain issues stemming from the war in Ukraine, extreme weather events, and regular labour disputes at transportation networks across the country, Canada’s reputation is at stake should work stoppages continue.”