Canadian Dockworkers May Be Reconsidering Rejected Offer

Trudeau Hints at Reason Resumption of Strike Was Aborted
Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum July 18. (Galit Rodan/Bloomberg News)

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Dockworkers might be rethinking their position on a tentative deal after calling off a renewed strike planned for this weekend at Canada’s west coast ports, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We’re glad to see that the union is reconsidering the good offer that was on the table,” Trudeau told reporters July 20 in Kingston, Ontario.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents more than 7,000 workers at British Columbia ports, and the BC Maritime Employers Association, which employs them, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The dockworkers were on strike from July 1 to July 13 before a tentative agreement briefly put an end to the walkout. But the union’s caucus rejected the deal July 18 and brought workers back to picket lines until a labor board ruled the move “unlawful” less than a day later because the union failed to give 72-hour notice. Hours later, the union gave that notice and called for a strike July 22 — only to reverse course at night, without giving any reasons or further details.

“We were all dismayed — to be honest — when we found out that a good deal that had been worked out at the table, that was agreed to both by union leadership and by the management, had been suddenly rejected and they were back in the strike position,” Trudeau said.

The tentative deal, which was rejected earlier by the union’s caucus, would give workers a 19.2% wage increase over four years, according to the employers association. But the union said this week that the agreement covered a period that was “far too long” and that employers had “not addressed the cost of living issues” workers have faced.

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“We always know that the best deals are always found through negotiations at the bargaining table, and that’s what we’re focused on. But we also know that this strike could not continue,” the prime minister said. “This was unacceptable just because the impact on workers, on families, on businesses right across the country of this prolonged strike has been significant.”

The turmoil at the ports was being felt in Canada’s agricultural sector. Canpotex, the potash-exporting joint venture of Nutrien Ltd. and Mosaic Co., said July 19 it was withdrawing all new sales offers. Nutrien has curtailed production at two potash mines in Saskatchewan.