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Tentative deal reached to end lockout at B.C. ports

Last Updated May 31, 2019 at 6:12 am PST


A tentative agreement has been reached, ending the hours-long lockout at B.C.'s ports

A partial strike by union workers at Deltaport and Vanterm began on Monday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The lockout at B.C.’s ports has ended, just mere hours after it was put in place.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union says a tentative agreement has been reached with the B.C. Maritime Employers Association after marathon talks that began on Wednesday at noon and ended Thursday morning.

The lockout was imposed by the BCMEA at 8 a.m.

“It was a hard fought negotiation by both parties, but at the end of the day, we got a fair deal,” says International Longshore and Warehouse Union president Rob Ashton. “We’re bringing back a really good deal for the men, women and friends that we represent.”

As part of the agreement, union workers have also withdrawn their strike notice. Details of the agreement aren’t being released until the pending ratification are voted on by union members.

“We have to take the package to the longshore caucus who then recommends it or shoots it down,” says Ashton. “But the longshore bargaining committee is going to recommend it 100 percent, and then it goes off to our membership [for a vote].”

WATCH: Potential B.C. Port lockout Thursday

Unionized workers began a partial strike at Deltaport and Vanterm on Monday as the two sides continued to try and work to reach a collective agreement for about a year and a half.

According to the BCMEA, a mediator has been involved in negotiations since February. However, discussions stalled over the weekend and talks broke off early this week.

There were concerns the lockout would impact thousands of people. According to the BCMEA’s chairman, the potential widespread financial impact of a lockout could have amounted to about $5 billion a day across Canada.

“It feels very good,” says Jeff Scott, the chair of the BC Maritime Employers Association. “We’ve been bargaining for 18 months. We’ve been able to provide some certainty for our customers and stakeholders within the gateway. Keeping our ports open for business was the most important focus we’ve had over the past couple of weeks.”

Lockout highlights need for new terminal

For some, the lockout served as a reminder of the need for a new terminal. Retailers say a new operator would leave our region and country less vulnerable to these types of situations.

With Global Container Terminals Canada operating both Deltaport and Vanterm, the Retail Council of Canada says it’s time to get a new terminal built to avoid situations like this.

RELATED: Union says port workers still on the job in B.C., despite lockout notice

Greg Wilson with that group says if a diversity of operators were in place at local ports, it would make total shipping shutdowns less likely in future.

But, in a statement GCT counters that, “All terminals in BC are members of the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) – including GCT and Dubai Ports World, plus many others. BCMEA negotiates the contract with ILWU on behalf of all terminals as the Employers Association. As such, should the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 be ever built by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the new terminal operator of that facility would also likely be a member of the BCMEA and would be effected by the same possible shutdowns that may occur in lockout situation as the one that was going to occur.”

This comes as the Port of Vancouver proposes its Roberts Bank Terminal 2 megaproject, which it wants to build on a man-made island adjacent to Deltaport.

-With files from The Canadian Press