Canadian dockworkers’ fight for contract continues

By Beverly Bernardo
August 14, 2023
Militant/Ned Dmytryshyn

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — In face of attacks by Ottawa against their right to strike, 7,400 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada at the 30 terminals run by the BC Maritime Employers Association on Canada’s West Coast have used their union power, backed by widespread national and international working-class solidarity, to force the bosses to make a new offer. It will be put to a membership vote Aug. 3-4, following “stop-work” union meetings the day before to discuss it.

The new tentative deal was announced by ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton July 30, two days after the workers voted to reject contract terms from a government mediator.

The workers, who went on a 13-day strike July 1, are demanding a two-year contract, wage increases to cover inflation, and job protection from the bosses’ drive to contract out union jobs and step up automation.

Because of the billions of dollars worth of commodities tied up at the Vancouver port, Canada’s largest shippers across the country have called on the government to recall Parliament from its summer break, bar any further strike action, impose a contract, and pass anti-strike legislation to end the conflict. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says “all options” are on the table.

Ottawa has called in the Canada Industrial Relations Board, an “independent” body appointed by the government. Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said he intended to direct the board either to initiate binding arbitration or directly impose a new contract, abrogating the longshore workers’ right to strike. The board set an Aug. 4 deadline.

The longshore workers have received widespread solidarity and inspired others across the country and internationally. Above, rally in Vancouver July 9.