(Bloomberg) — Dockworkers on Canada’s west coast raised the possibility of a renewed labor disruption at the country’s busiest port after rejecting a negotiated contract for the second time this month.
Members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union turned down a deal that would have raised wages by 19.2% over four years to C$162,000 ($123,000) a year, according to a statement late Friday from the BC Maritime Employers Association. The union’s leadership had recommended that its members vote in favor.
“We call on our direct employers to come to the table and negotiate something that works for our members and the industry,” said Rob Ashton, the union’s president.
More than 7,000 dockworkers were on strike for 13 days earlier in July, crippling the flow of trade through the port of Vancouver — Canada’s busiest maritime hub — and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. That stoppage snarled more than C$10 billion in shipments as pulp mills shut down, mines were curtailed, and the cost of goods surged for thousands of companies, according to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. The dockworkers can now go on strike again with 72 hours of notice.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government sent in a mediator earlier this month to get a negotiated deal done. One option for Trudeau’s government is to recall parliament, which is currently on summer break, to pass legislation ordering the workers to stay on the job.
Business groups — including the regional board of trade and the country’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses — lambasted the union, saying it was time for the government to intervene to ensure that the ports stay open.
“Businesses from coast to coast are paying the price for the union’s irresponsible actions,” the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said. “If the union issues another 72-hour strike notice, government will have to immediately introduce back-to-work legislation.”
(Updates with comments from union and business groups)