July has been the month of hell for Canada’s forest industry.
Brought to its knees by record wildfires, the sector now faces losing millions of dollars after more than 7400 workers – mostly dockers – went on strike last Saturday.
The British Columbia Council of Forest Industries has urged the parties to resolve the walkout.
It said the shuttered ports handled forest products exports worth about CAD 15 billion.
For example, businesses that rely on intermediate goods shipped from Asia need help carrying on their operations.
They will have to source goods from other suppliers or reroute existing shipments through ports in the US, both of which will add costs to the bottom line.
Canadians across the country will see the price of goods increase as the strike continues, disrupting $500 million in goods daily.
The strike has taken a hefty toll on the port terminals of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, the first and third-most important in Canada.
Negotiations are at a standstill, with growing calls for a special law to end the conflict.
The workers’ collective contract expired on March 31, and the strikers are now asking for a wage rise in line with inflation.
The sector also wants greater protection against automation and subcontracting in the industry.
Roughly 80% of container shipments at Port Metro Vancouver are forestry products, primarily pulp and logs, which have stalled due to the strike.
A shipment of Franklin Forest Products Ltd.’s lumber from Port Alberni is sitting in Vancouver because job action prevents cargo vessels from sailing to offshore ports.
That affects a company because it doesn’t get paid until the product is shipped.
The strike occurred immediately after a wildfire closed the main Highway 4 east of Port Alberni.
The highway has since reopened, but the port strike is delivering the latest in many ongoing transportation blows, including Covid, in the past few years.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on July 7 that Ottawa would continue putting pressure on both sides to end the strike.
Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan has urged the two sides to use mediators and resume talks.
Members of the provincial political party BC United, the Council of Forest Industries, and other groups demanded federal legislation to end the strike.
The congestion at the port has some shippers looking at rerouting pulp and lumber shipments to ports in Prince Rupert, Seattle, and Montreal and considering more drastic measures as the dispute lingers.