ILWU Canada strike notice rescinded

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Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) declares ILWU strike notice invalid, removing immediate threat of industrial disruption.

At an urgent weekend hearing the CIRB determined that strike notice issued by ILWU Canada Local 514 against DP World (Canada) Inc. is in contravention of the Canada Labour Code. “The CIRB found that the union failed to bargain in good faith when it conducted a strike vote amongst employees of only one member employer of the BCMEA and issued a strike notice based on that strike vote. Accordingly, the CIRB directed the union to rescind the strike notice of July 5, 2024 and advise members that it is rescinded.” The BCMEA is the British Colombia Maritime Employers Association.

The ILWU Canada has taken issue with how DP World Canada proposes to implement remotely controlled RMG cranes for the rail operation at its Vancouver terminal. The union claims DP World Canada “put the Union on notice in med-December, 2023, that it was unilaterally going to introduce automation with respect to the loading and unloading of cargo containers at their Rail Intermodal yard at Centerm.” This is a reference to five ZPMC RMGs with TMEIC drives and automation at the Centerm rail yard that are equipped for operation by remote control. The cranes were delivered in 2021.

DP World Canada had earlier reached a “manning agreement” with ILWU Local 500 regarding these cranes, “but refused to do so directly with Local 514” Frank Morena, President of ILWU Local 514 said in a statement. While Local 500 represents longshoremen/equipment operators, Local 514 represents foremen. “Following this refusal, the Union tabled a manning proposal during collective bargaining with the BCMEA, which continued to refuse to negotiate a meaningful manning proposal. Notwithstanding that, another BCMEA employer, GCT, successfully negotiated a manning agreement with the Union years ago when it introduced automation,” Morena said. GCT operates remotely controlled RMGs over its rail yard at the Deltaport Terminal.

After the ILWU held a strike vote for DP World only employees the BCMEA responded with an industry-wide lockout notice. Both the strike and the lockout notice have now been withdrawn following the CIRB ruling.

The CIRB also directed ILWU Local 514 to withdraw its “Nanaimo dispatch proposal”. Nanaimo is a small feeder port on Vancouver Island operated by DP World Canada that is connected to the Vancouver terminals with a barge service. The CIRB held that “Local 514’s Nanaimo dispatch proposal was illegal because it consists of a receding horizon in bargaining and amounts to a failure to bargain in good faith. Therefore, the Board directed the union to withdraw its proposal,” the BCMEA said. A ‘receding horizon’ refers to a new proposal that seeks to take back or reverse previous progress.

There are other issues around various allowances and benefits that the parties do not agree on, but automation appears to be the main sticking point. In the BCMEA’s view, ILWU Canada is unfairly trying to introduce limits on automation for DP World specifically. “Since November 2022, the BCMEA and ILWU Local 514 have been negotiating on an industry-wide basis, an approach that is aligned with a long-standing practice for the BCMEA-ILWU bargaining process. Bargaining on an industry basis fosters stability and certainty. In targeting DP World (Canada) Inc., ILWU Local 514 is unfairly isolating a single terminal operator to create uncertainty and chaos, while many industry-wide issues remain unresolved in our shared collective bargaining process,” the BCMEA said.

The CIRB ruling removes the threat of immediate industrial action. The CIRB hearing to address the BCMEA’s complaint that the union is illegally trying to introduce a manning proposal specific to DP World Canada into the collective bargaining process is now scheduled to be held in early August.

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