Canada’s first indefinite port strike in 30 years.

All eyes on Canada as international unions pledge support for ILWU longshore strikers

07 Jul 2023

7,400 dock workers, members of the ITF-affiliated International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada), have launched Canada’s first indefinite port strike in 30 years.

The workers began their strike on Saturday 1 July.

Despite every attempt by the ILWU Canada to reach a settlement, Canadian longshore workers have been given no other choice than to take strike action after employers refused to resolve the final disputed items on a major multi-year collective contract covering Canada’s west coast ports and terminals.

Unions had expected the contract to be finalised without delay after months already spent at the bargaining table across from the British Columbia Maritime Employer Association (BCMEA). The bulk of claims have already been settled between the parties in the talks — with just one sentence is said to be at dispute.

The ITF and our almost 20 million workers, members of transport unions from across the globe, 100 percent support the action being taken by ILWU Canada’s rank-and-file dockers,” said International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) President and Dockers’ Section Chair Paddy Crumlin.

“ILWU members in Canada went to work around the clock throughout the pandemic when the rest of the country was asked to stay at home for their safety. They endured increased risk of infection and death from Covid long before there were vaccines. ILWU members kept and continue to keep Canada moving. They sacrificed. And now they’re sacrificing again. By taking indefinite strike action to stand up for fairness in the face of unprecedented greed.”

ILWU Canada’s key demands centre on:

  • Ending contracting out to ensure decent employment standards.
  • Protecting current and future generations of dockworkers from the devastating impacts of port automation.
  • Winning a fair pay rise that compensates dockworkers for their contribution to the economy and protects against record inflation and the current cost of living crisis.

BCMEA should get back to the bargaining table

Crumlin called on the BCMEA to return to the bargaining table and rise above the dirty-tricks and misleading leaks from anonymous sources that are hampering good faith bargaining.

“The bosses at the BCMEA are acting atrociously. Let’s not forget that every day BCMEA play games, the Canadian people and their economy are impacted, and their workers are forced to pay the cost, potentially risking mortgages and their own financial security.”

Crumlin said swelling corporate profits in shipping, particularly since the onset of the pandemic, must be redistributed and shared with longshore and other maritime workers who do the heavy lifting that generates companies’ unprecedented profits.

“It’s time for BCMEA to return to the bargaining table to get this contract done,” Crumlin said.

International solidarity arriving in British Columbia

Support is already flooding in for the striking ILWU members from Canadian and international unions.

First Vice-Chair of the ITF Dockers’ Section and International President of the ILWU, Willie Adams, visited picket lines as the strike began, and an international delegation of dockers’ unions is arriving in Canada ahead of a rally is organised for Sunday, 9 July.

ITF Dockers’ Section Second Vice-Chair Niek Stam, from the Dutch dockers’ union FNV Havens, will be leading the ITF delegation, he pledged support for Canadian longshore workers:

“Not only as a Vice Chair of the ITF Dockers’ Section, but also as the union leader of our dockers’ union FNV Havens in the Netherlands, I bring not only support but also good examples of how our union negotiated good and solid contracts with our employers.”

In the Netherlands we concluded 62 CBAs in the port section. All contracts have compensation for inflation and clauses on automation and maintenance in the terminals. All maintenance workers are part of our CBAs. Nothing is impossible. It is time that BCMEA shows good faith and willingness to follow our good examples. If our employers can do it, BCMEA can do it.

“The Canadian and international trade union movements, including dockers’ unions around the globe, have pledged their solidarity with ILWU Canada. We will be joining picket lines across the west coast and stand ready to escalate action if required,” said Stam.

ILWU strikers have organised picket lines across British Columbia. The strike affects ​​​33 ports and terminals.

About the ITF:  The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a global, democratic, affiliate-led movement of 740 transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions and workers’ networks from 154 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members.