$15B Canada Timber Export Industry at Risk Amid On-Off Port Strike

Pressure is mounting for the Canadian Government to legislate an end to the strike threat.

Fri 21 Jul 23


The Canadian business world is in turmoil. The 36 hours have seen a succession of striking and working periods.

The strike, continuously making headlines nationwide, has repercussions for over 30 ports throughout British Columbia.

Wood Central reported last week that forestry products, mainly pulp and logs, constitute 80% of container shipments at Port Metro Vancouver.

For 13 days, the containers were left unattended at the port.

The federal government stepped in to mediate, temporarily resolving the strike.

Yet, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) announced its resumption yesterday morning.

As of yesterday afternoon, a few hours after this new strike action began, it was off again.

The future of this situation remains uncertain.

Pressure is mounting on the Federal Government to legislate an end to the strike action. Footage courtesy of @CBCTheNatinoal.

The federal government has shown a desire to resolve the stalemate and is exploring its options.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister called a crisis cabinet committee meeting #to address the situation.

The ILWU believes the agreement’s terms need alteration to safeguard current and future jobs.

The BCMEA (British Columbia Maritime Employers Association) disputed the strike’s resumption as illegal.

They argued that the union didn’t provide the mandatory 72-hour strike notice.

The ILWU countered, asserting the strike was ongoing, negating the need for a notice.

However, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) supported the employers’ argument yesterday, deeming the strike illegal.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan immediately tweeted, “This strike is illegal.”

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan immediately tweeted, “This strike is illegal.”

O’Regan, who advocated for the preliminary agreement, signalled the government’s dwindling patience with the ongoing dispute.

In a joint statement with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, he stated:

“We have been patient. We respected the collective bargaining process. But our ports need to be operational.”

They labelled the preliminary agreement “a fair and balanced deal” and stressed that Canadian businesses and workers cannot bear further disruption.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business urge the federal government to implement back-to-work legislation.

This type of law compels striking workers to resume their duties.

The government faced calls for this measure from the strike’s onset on 1st July.

However, it maintained that a negotiated agreement would serve best.

Invoking this legislation would necessitate a recall of parliament from its summer recess, potentially straining the government alliance.

Simultaneously, the British Columbia Council of Forest Industries has urged both parties to resolve the strike before it inflicts extensive damage on the industry.

The shuttered ports process forest product exports worth approximately 15 billion Canadian dollars.

The prior 13-day strike, which concluded last Thursday, involved about 7,400 port workers across over 30 port terminals and other sites province-wide.

The strike is crippling the Canadian export economy. Footage courtesy of @CityNews.

A possible deal seemed within reach when the two sides were close in talks, prompting federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan to call for terms from a mediator.

This led to the tentative agreement.

The Liberal Party, the government’s senior partner, would likely favour back-to-work legislation.

However, the National Democratic Party has expressed that trade union rights should be respected.

Such a showdown won’t happen following ILWU’s recent wavering actions.

In response to the CIRB ruling, the union issued a new strike notice to commence a new work stoppage by Saturday morning.

However, it retracted the notice a few hours later “with immediate effect”, as stated by ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton.

The union announced it rescinded the notice, hoping for renewed negotiations and voiced regret for the economic repercussions caused by the dispute.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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