Canada’s labor minister said Wednesday a deal is within reach to end the longshore strike at British Columbia ports.
“Today, after eleven days of work stoppages, I have decided that the difference between the employer’s and the union’s positions is not sufficient to justify a continued work stoppage,” Canada Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan said in a statement shared via Twitter.
To end the bargaining stalemate, the minister said he had asked a senior federal mediator to send him a written recommendation on the terms of a settlement within 24 hours. He said the two negotiating parties will then be forwarded the proposal, and be given 24 more hours “to decide whether or not to recommend ratification of the terms to their principals.”
The minister informed the two parties of the mediation strategy late Tuesday afternoon in a letter, according to the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association. The letter came after ten weeks of mediation and a prolonged strike that has paralyzed imports and exports in Canada.
Earlier that day, the employer group had bemoaned the lack of progress in negotiations, saying an estimated $8.6 billion in cargo had been disrupted due to the port strike. The BCMEA also blamed the longshore union for remaining entrenched in their position, despite the employer group bringing proposals to the table that responded to union demands.
“Last night, the Parties met to try to address the critical issue of maintenance work at the request of federal mediators, but regrettably, no progress was made,” the BCMEA said.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada began their strike on July 1, citing concerns over pay, automation, and retaining jurisdiction over certain types of work. While negotiations broke down shortly after the strike, the two parties returned to the table earlier this week.
The union has not issued a public statement regarding the minister of labor’s letter or a proposed settlement as of Wednesday morning.
In its most recent public statement, ILWU Canada criticized calls for legislation to force longshore laborers back to work, and said union demands for a fair wage were reasonable considering shipping companies’ large profits during the pandemic.
“The federal government would not intervene to impose contract terms on the shipping companies, protecting Canadians from cost and disruption, and it’s sheer hypocrisy to now argue that government should force longshore workers back to work,” ILWU Canada president Rob Ashton said in the July 10 statement.