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Strike at Canada’s Pacific ports ends with tentative, four-year deal

Dock workers at ports along Canada’s Pacific coast and their employers accepted a tentative wage deal on Thursday, ending a 13-day strike that disrupted trade at the country’s busiest ports and risked worsening inflation.

“The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada are pleased to advise that the parties have reached a tentative agreement on a new 4-year deal,” the BCMEA said in a statement.

The ILWU also said there was an agreement, which must now be ratified by both sides. The union had made demands including wage increases and expansion of their jurisdiction to regular maintenance work on terminals.

Some 7,500 dock workers represented by the ILWU walked off the job on July 1 after failing to reach a new work contract with the BCMEA representing the companies involved.

The strike upended operations at two of Canada’s three busiest ports, the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Prince Rupert – key gateways for exporting the country’s natural resources and commodities and bringing in raw materials.

Economists have warned that the strike could trigger more supply-chain disruptions and fuel inflation while the Bank of Canada tries to cool the economy.

“The scale of the disruption has been significant,” Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a joint statement.

“We do not want to be back here again. Deals like this, made between parties at the collective bargaining table, are the best way to prevent that.”

On Tuesday, O’Regan said the differences between the parties were not sufficient to justify a continued work stoppage.

He offered terms drafted by a federal mediator and gave the union and employers 24 hours to decide if they were satisfied. The deal was reached at 10:20 am PT (1720 GMT), 10 minutes before the deadline, the ILWU said.

The parties, with help from federal mediators, had been negotiating a new contract since late April.

More than half of Canadian small business owners in a survey released on Tuesday said the strike at the Port of Vancouver will affect their operations, according to preliminary results from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The strike is estimated to have disrupted C$6.5 billion of cargo movement at the ports, based on the industry body Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters’ calculation of about C$500 million in disrupted trade each day.

Credit: Reuters

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