A container ship prepares to dock at Deltaport.

Ports already feeling pain of possible strike

Cargo diverting as longshoremen threaten to walk

Cargo shipments are already diverting to U.S. terminals in anticipation of a potential strike by longshoremen that would shut down B.C. port operations.

Thousands of workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union  Canada (ILWU) held a strike vote this week.

The results aren’t yet tabulated and the earliest workers could be on strike is next Monday – when a 21-day cooling off period ends – if 72-hour strike notice is issued later this week.

But B.C. Maritime Employers Association spokesman Greg Verdula said its 62 member shipping firms and terminals here are already feeling the impacts as customers send shipments through other U.S. ports.

“It’s causing significant cargo diversion to U.S. west coast ports,” he said. “The mere mention of labour uncertainty causes cargo to begin to divert and with irresponsible actions like this, that uncertainty intensifies.”

Verdula said some big Canadian carriers are already sending at least half their cargo through Seattle-Tacoma instead of local terminals and they’re aiming to boost that to 100 per cent by early next week.

A walkout would shut all international shipping through Port Metro Vancouver, including Deltaport and Fraser Surrey Docks, as well as other B.C. ports such as Prince Rupert.

Most domestic shipping between points on the B.C. coast would likely be unaffected.

Verdula estimated a shutdown would affect 72,000 workers in B.C. and cause vast economic damage.

He said the employer group is disappointed the union opted to take a strike vote even though the two sides are in federally mandated mediation.

“In today’s struggling economy and fragile recovery, we consider their actions to be absolutely irresponsible.”

If workers do walk, they likely won’t stay out long.

The federal government historically legislates port workers back to work within a week in such cases.

But the union might opt to wait some time to issue 72-hour notice and use the lingering threat of a strike to disrupt business.

Verdula said that underscores the BCMEA’s position that there should be a method for going directly to binding arbitration to avoid any spectre of a strike crippling the strategic Asia-Pacific gateway.

The ILWU has said that would run contrary to its collective bargaining rights.

The Canadian Industrial Relations Board last month ruled in favour of the union, rejecting the BCMEA’s claim the ILWU was bargaining in bad faith.

ILWU president Tom Dufresne stressed the strike vote doesn’t mean job action will ensue, adding the two sides are slated to resume talks Monday.

He accused Verdula and the BCMEA of stirring up more industry uncertainty with reckless comments.

“Irresponsible brinkmanship on the part of the BCMEA has brought us to this point,” Dufresne said. “In spite of the fact that the BCMEA continues to prefer conflict over compromise, the ILWU remains ready to enter into a reasonable settlement.”

Port Metro Vancouver chief operating officer Chris Badger said he remains hopeful the two sides can reach an agreement without job action.

“Any perception by the customers that the reliability of the gateway is under threat

will have an impact on the reputation of the gateway,” he said.

The last time port operations were disrupted was in 2005 when container truckers struck for six weeks.

Just Posted

Confusion in Campbell River on first day of cannabis legalization

Some users puzzled as dispensaries close just before pot becomes legal across Canada

Aquaman star spotted around Campbell River as production ramps up on See

Jason Momoa, best known for his role in Game of Thrones, is in town to film television series

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Man injured in Vancouver Island racetrack accident meets, holds son for first time

Kayden was born the day after Jonathan was crushed by car at speedway

Campbell River school enrolment up over projections

End of September count finds 65 more students in the system

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Only 40% of B.C. car dealerships have electric cars available: report

Researchers found buyers frustrated at the lack of options

VIDEO: Millionaire Lottery returns to give back and win big

Since 1996, Millionaire Lottery has raised $52 million for the VGH+UBC Hospital Foundation

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

‘A little odd’ B.C.’s biggest city celebrates cannabis without a legal store

On the streets of downtown Vancouver, notably the Wild West of illegal marijuana, not a single legal store opened Wednesday, making for a rather anticlimatic kick-off

Most Read