US workers refuse to touch Canada cargo amid BC port strike

VANCOUVER — Maritime employers says the impact of the BC port strike is spilling over internationally, as US port workers refuse to handle containers rerouted from Vancouver to Seattle.

The BC Maritime Employers Association says the move further damages the “reliability and competitiveness of West Coast ports up and down” as the work stoppage drags on for a 10th day.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union International president Willie Adams told CNBC last week that members of the US West Coast chapter of the union won’t be unloading Canadian-bound cargo in solidarity with the striking workers in BC.

Adams told a rally in Vancouver on Sunday that anyone who thought they could offload Canada-bound cargo at Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland or Los Angeles should know that it “ain’t happening.”

The workers and their employer held a round of bargaining over the weekend, the first talks since negotiations collapsed one week ago, but neither side is saying when, or if, more talks are planned.

About 7,400 members of the ILWU Canada have been on strike since July 1, idling all cargo handling at about 30 ports, including the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s busiest harbour.

Jurisdiction over maintenance, as well as improved wages and language to prevent contracting out and automation are key issues in the dispute.

The employers association said in its statement Monday that economic repercussions have been escalating.

“With approximately $19 billion of containerized cargo moving through ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert every month … the potential impact of ongoing strike action on transpacific cargo flows is immense.”

The employers association said in a previous statement, issued after the mediated talks on Saturday, that it made an offer to address dock workers’ demands to expand union jurisdiction over regular maintenance work at terminals.

The union has not responded publicly to the association’s proposal, but a union leader told the rally on Sunday that control over maintenance is a “line in the sand,” and although longshore workers can’t prevent automation, they, not contractors, should make repairs if robots break.

Adams said Sunday that he was encouraging workers from around the world to meet ships coming to their docks and show they are united with Canadian strikers.