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Talks continue ahead of planned lockout at B.C. ports

Last Updated May 30, 2019 at 8:41 am PST

File Photo. (CityNews Vancouver)

BREAKING UPDATE: Unionized workers say the lockout is going ahead. Read more here.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The gates to B.C.’s bustling ports are set to be locked at 8:00 a.m. Thursday with all signs suggesting labour talks are continuing behind closed doors.

The dispute involves thousands of longshore workers and their employer. The situation is something B.C.’s truckers are also watching very closely.

Talks between the B.C. Maritime Employers Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union resumed on Wednesday at noon, and are apparently still underway with neither side speaking with the media while they’re at the bargaining table.

They’re looking for a deal to avoid what could be a potentially devastating lockout and shutdown of the entire West Coast shipping industry. A lockout or full strike could cost the Canadian economy, by some accounts, $5 billion a day.

Read more: Union says lockout notice for B.C. port workers ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible’

According to the B.C. Trucking Association, any port work stoppage will hit many of its members hard.

“Everybody’s very concerned,” the association’s president, Dave Earle, says, explaining the movement of containers provides a livelihood for a lot of his members. “For the vast majority of, what are called drayage companies, they are entirely dependent on the port. There are about 1,700 licensed operators that run in and out of the ports on a daily basis.”

Earle says if a labour dispute drags on, it will be difficult for many drivers, as well as the 7,000 port workers affected.

The union began a partial strike on Monday that targeted the Deltaport and Vanterm container terminals.

Cruise terminals and grain shipments are not affected.

No recourse

For the owners and operators of the drayage companies, Earle says there really isn’t any other alternative for work if they depend on the ports and a lockout takes place.

“Ultimately, the containers will move. So if they’re delayed a day or two, it means that these operators are going to have a very, very busy week or two ahead of them.”

Read more: Negotiations continued through the night in effort to avoid B.C. port lockout

However, the backups could “become problematic,” he says, if a lockout were to take place for an extended period of time.

On the consumer side, Earle notes many likely won’t notice any change if a lockout were to last a day or two.

“But of course, the longer it drags on — or if it drags on, any goods that are coming through that port will certainly be impacted in their timeliness in getting to market,” he explains.

Mental state ahead of impending lockout

Members of the B.C. Trucking Association have expressed their concern around what could take place if talks fail, Earle says.

“And they’re very anxious to understand what this dispute looks like. How long is it going to be? What is that longterm impact going to be?”

He points out any disruption to the supply chain can impact everyone from the company trying to ship its product out of the country to the receiver.

-With files from Martin MacMahon