ILWU Canada Strike Again, Stop, Reissue Strike Notice, Then Cancel – Head Spinning Yet?

 In export, exporters, exports, ILA, ILWU, ILWU Strike, import, importing, Imports, International Shipping, ocean freight, ocean shipping, port congestion

Well, that didn’t last long. The good feelings that the strike at Canada’s ports was over only lasted days. However, a resumed or new strike (depending on your point of view) this week was even shorter, followed by a back and forth, on and off again for the strike that’s probably making shippers’ heads spin.

In just our last blog post, on Tuesday, I wrote about the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) strike ending and the aftermath of the nearly two-week affair. But before the night was even out, ILWU Canada took strike measures again.

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Tuesday night’s strike action was deemed illegal for a lack of proper notification, so the union went back to work. However, ILWU Canada quickly announced plans, giving formal notice, to go back on strike this Saturday, July 22nd.

Hours later, the union retracted that strike announcement “after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directed a crisis meeting to pursue all options to ensure the stability of supply chains,” according to an article from Reuters.

Obviously, the union is not happy with the contract it was offered. At least, the leaders of the union are not.

The tentative contract is what halted the strike late last week. ILWU Canada’s leaders reviewed the deal but ultimately decided to reject it. Rather than being a deal worked out by the union and their employers, there were at least a significant number of terms in the contract suggested by federal mediators.

Clearly, the union has a desire to go back on strike, but the Canadian government wants to keep that, because of the economic damage it causes the country, from happening. For the moment, the union is holding off on strike. But will they execute slowdowns like the ILWU did before the sister union reached a tentative agreement with employers on the U.S. West Coast? That could be quite damaging as well, especially as this is a moment when the Canadian ports need its dockworkers to work hard to recover from the strike ILWU Canada just executed.

This is a situation we’ll obviously have to keep our eyes on. I’ve compiled the complete text from ILWU Canada’s press releases around the “new” strike below to give a sense of the union’s state of mind and reasoning they’re giving for both rejecting the new contract and striking.

ILWU Canada’s Deal Rejection and Strike Announcement

Here’s the press release ILWU Canada put out Tuesday regarding its rejection of the deal and striking:

July 18, 2023


The ILWU Canada Longshore Caucus has voted down the Mediators Recommended Terms of Settlement.

The ILWU Canada Longshore Caucus does not believe the recommendations had the ability to protect our jobs now or into the future.

Our position since day one has been to protect our jurisdiction and this position has not changed.

With the record profits that the BCMEA’s member companies have earned over the last few years the employers have not addressed the cost of living issues that our workers have faced over the last couple of years as all workers have.

The term of the collective agreement that was given with today’s uncertain times, is far too long. We must be able to readdress the uncertainty in the world’s financial markets for our members.

On July 18, 2023, as of 16:30 the ILWU Canada Longshore Division will be back on the picket line for a fair and negotiated collective agreement.

Rob Ashton

President – ILWU Canada

ILWU Canada’s New Strike Notice

As stated, since the strike was deemed illegal, ILWU Canada was forced to resume work. The following day, Wednesday, ILWU Canada issued a press release with formal 72-hour notice of plans to go back on strike Saturday. The press release also contains the union’s argument for why it shouldn’t have had to give strike notice again.

Here’s the full text of that press release:

ILWU to reissue strike notice with the hope of returning to the bargaining table

The ILWU’s strike against the BCMEA for a negotiated collective agreement that provides fair compensation to the workers who work at the ports and which protects their job security continues after the ruling from CIRB today.

The ILWU has been in a legal strike position since July 1, but suspended picketing at the request of the Minister of Labour while the ILWU considered a collective agreement with settlement terms suggested by a mediator.

As required by our constitution, the ILWU contract caucus considered the tentative contract in a two-day meeting. The caucus was not satisfied the mediator’s deal met the membership’s goals and directed the bargaining committee to seek a negotiated agreement. After advising the Minister of Labour and the BCMEA, the ILWU resumed its lawful picketing activities.

Although the ILWU removed its picket lines voluntarily while it considered the tentative agreement, the BCMEA decided to exploit our good faith move by complaining to the CIRB that the ILWU has commenced a new strike for which 72 hours notice was required.

The ILWU has followed Canadian labour law which holds that a strike continues from the moment of job action until the ratification of a collective agreement. The CIRB however, did not follow the established cases, and determined that new strike notice was required. The ILWU will appeal the CIRB decision but will respect the ruling and reissue notice.

The ILWU regrets the economic impact of this labour dispute and that government interference such as the CIRB order will only serve to lengthen the strike. We once again ask the government to allow free collective bargaining to occur and allow the longshore workers to use the options allowed by the Canada Labour Code,

Rob Ashton

President – ILWU Canada

ILWU Canada’s Strike Retraction

ILWU Canada’s retraction of its strike announcement was very short. Just one sentence. Here it is:

Effective immediately the strike notice dated July 22 for 9:00am has now been removed.

Rob Ashton
ILWU Canada

At this point, no one should assume the drama is over. I wouldn’t expect recovery from the strike to end up on the lower side of estimates of just over a month.

ILA Demonstrates Over Jurisdiction

The blog I was going to write today was to be about the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) demonstrating at the state capitol of South Carolina. Obviously, the labor action by ILWU Canada changed my plans. However, since I wrote at the end of the last post that today’s post would look at that situation, I’ll cover it briefly now.

The issue the ILA is upset about is jurisdiction. Sound familiar? Jurisdiction was a major issue on the West Coast helping to make the last year of contract negotiations (when negotiations were actually happening) contentious.

The ILA has had a problem with the South Carolina Port Authority using non-union workers at its relatively new Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal since it opened a couple years ago. In 2021, I wrote about how the union was seriously hindering the terminal at the Port of Charleston from receiving ships. That was at a time when port congestion was rampant on both coasts and the terminal was desperately needed.

For about half a century, South Carolina ports have used a hybrid model, employing union and state employees. The ILA wants all of those jobs. And they want all such jobs to belong to the union up and down the East and Gulf Coast ports. Will this become a sticking point when it’s time for the ILA to negotiate its next contract? That’s one more piece of uncertainty for U.S. importers and exporters.

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