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Federal Labour Minister says renewed port workers strike illegal

O’Regan: union ordered to cease and desist any strike activity because of lack of 72 hours notice
Striking International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada workers picket at a port entrance in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, July 4, 2023. British Columbia’s ports are facing an uncertain future after the longshore workers union rejected a tentative mediated deal and resumed strike action that had been put to a temporary halt only last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said a strike by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada is “illegal” in remarks that came after a ruling by the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

In a tweet, O’Regan said Wednesday the board ordered that the union cease and desist any strike activity because it did not provide 72 hours notice.

The strike that has shut down British Columbia’s ports resumed Tuesday after the longshore workers union rejected a tentative mediated deal.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada says “employers have not addressed the cost of living issues” faced by workers in the last few years.

The tentative four-year deal that was rejected had been proposed by a federal mediator at the instruction of O’Regan.

In a joint statement earlier in the day, O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said that workers and employers across Canada cannot face further disruption and that they were looking at all options.

The ministers said they have been patient and respected the collective bargaining process, but they need the ports operating.

“The deal presented to the parties was the result of a constructive and substantive collective bargaining process,” the ministers said in their statement.

“It represented a fair and balanced deal. It was informed by weeks of collective bargaining and drafted by third-party mediators in the interest of both the union and the employer.”

The strike froze billions of dollars worth of cargo from moving in and out of harbours, including at Canada’s busiest port in Vancouver.

The BC Maritime Employers Association said the union rejected the deal without sending it to a full membership vote.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must end the strike immediately because of the massive cost to workers, consumers and businesses.

“We’re calling on him to deliver a plan to end this strike within the next 24 hours,” Poilievre said.

Meanwhile, NDP transport critic Taylor Bachrach said it’s a part of union bargaining rights to be able to reject an agreement.

“We know that their team is ready to get back to the table right away and we encourage other parties to do the same,” Bachrach said.

“We are also renewing our call for the federal government to support the collective bargaining process, rather than resorting to the sort of back-to-work legislation that Liberal and Conservative governments have imposed far too often.”

The decision by the union was met by calls for Ottawa to pass back-to-work legislation to end the strike from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“The 13-day strike had already done significant damage to small businesses across the country and Canada’s international reputation as a dependable trading partner,” CFIB executive vice-president Corinne Pohlmann said in a statement.

“To let it carry on any further is negligent and will amplify disruptions of the supply chain.”

Robin Guy, vice-president and deputy leader, government relations, at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said further delay will cause the Canadian economy more harm.

“We’re calling on the government and all parties to agree to reconvene parliament and pass back to work legislation immediately,” Guy said.

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