Union, employers association trade barbs in BC port strike

VANCOUVER — The strike by thousands of workers at more than 30 British Columbia ports has entered its seventh day, as their union and the association representing BC maritime employers trade barbs about the stalled contract negotiations.

The president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, which represents about 7,400 striking workers, told a solidarity rally on Thursday that the BC Maritime Employers Association has walked away from the table three times.

Rob Ashton told the crowd the employers are waiting for the federal government to do their “dirty work instead of treating workers with respect” by negotiating.

The BC Maritime Employers Association later issued a statement saying it has learned of layoffs in related industries due to the job action and the strike has potentially disrupted $4.6 billion worth of cargo.

The association called on the union to return to bargaining under “a voluntary mediation-arbitration process.”

Dock workers have been off the job since Canada Day to back demands for improved wages and provisions against contracting out and automation, but negotiations stalled Monday over maintenance issues.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan is urging the two sides to use mediators and resume talks, while officials in Alberta and Saskatchewan have joined with business organizations in calling for federal legislation to end the strike.