Canada’s west coast shipping ports are getting back to business following a 13-day shut down due to a strike by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The strike may be over but undoing the damage within the supply chain may take weeks to complete. “The Port of Vancouver is what I call Canada’s 800-pound gorilla, in terms of ports. It handles about 43 percent of the total port-volume in Canada,” according to Trevor Heaver with the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.
Rob McKay is vice-president of labor relations for the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association. Before the strike concluded, he noted that truck and railway containers were stacking up along the docks. McKay says, “That’s a big pile of exports that are coming in by rail that aren’t able to get out in containers, and be returned to the port. And then, over here on my right, we’ve got some import goods that are left from the shipments that have just finished coming in. For every day the port operations are down, it takes us a bout a week to recover, afterwards.”
The Union sought an 11 percent wage increase in the first year of a new contract and six percent in the second year, along with assurances that automation will not replace unionized jobs. Also, they demanded a $6,000 signing bonus as an inflation adjustment allowance. Following intervention by federal mediators, the two sides agreed to a four-year deal, however terms were not disclosed.