Work resumes at British Columbia ports after 13 day strike, pleasing auto

British Columbia port workers are back on the job after a tentative agreement was reached between the employers’ association and the workers’ union, ending a 13-day-old strike, much to the relief of the Canadian auto industry.

Brian Kingston, CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), which represents the Detroit Three in Canada, and Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, have both said the importation and exportation of auto parts and raw materials were at risk during the strike.

“CVMA welcomes the resolution agreed to today by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada and the BC Maritime Employers. The work stoppage at BC ports disrupted the automotive supply chain and will take time to recover from,” Kingston said in a statement to Automotive News Canada. “Increasingly frequent transportation disruptions have hurt Canada’s competitiveness for job-creating automotive investment. We need a long-term solution to avoid repeated disruptions to Canada’s critical trade infrastructure.”

Volpe on Thursday initially reacted in a word: “Finally.”

He then shared a joint statement by federal Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

Later on thursday, Volpe commended O’Regan for his “great work … on ending the BC port strike without invoking the hammer of Parliament and back-to-work legislation.”

“Everyone has a right to bargain a fair deal. However, this stoppage costs everyone in Canada money — on shelves, in factories and beyond,” Volpe said.

The tentative deal pleased Mitsubishi Canada, which uses the Port of Vancouver to import vehicles from overseas plants.

“We are pleased to learn that a tentative agreement has been reached. The Port of Vancouver is an important hub for Mitsubishi Motors in Canada and the resumption of work allows vehicles and other goods to continue making their way into the hands of Canadians across the country ,” Kenji Harada, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada, said in a statement.

The strike has halted shipments in and out of about 30 ports in BC, including Canada’s largest, the Port of Vancouver.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade says there are 63,000 shipping containers stuck on vessels waiting at BC ports to be unloaded as of yesterday, and that number would have ballooned to 245,000 had the strike persisted to the end of July.

‘ADDITIONAL DELAYS’

David Adams, head of the Global Automakers of Canada, which represents the interests of overseas automakers in Canada, said the industry isn’t out of the woods, yet.

“It is unfortunate, however, that thousands of customers will face additional delays for their vehicles and that crucial parts and components have been tied up in this quagmire,” he said. “The ports are key components of our member supply chains and any disruption is problematic.”

A BC Maritime Employers Association spokesman says work at the Port of Vancouver began July 13 at 4:30 pm PT with 120 workers to be dispatched overnight, slimming up to 500 by 8 am PT a day later.

The association says it reached a four-year agreement with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada.

The union, which represents 7,400 workers in the job action that began July 1, has not yet commented on the pact.

The agreement is subject to ratification by members of both the union and the maritime employers, and no additional details on the deal have been released.

Federal Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan said Thursday that the strike that had snarled a trade worth billions was over and thanked both sides.

But he and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement that the extent of the disruption showed the importance of the relationship between industry and labour, and that Canada’s “supply chains and our economy depend on it.”

The tentative agreement to end the strike came after O’Regan ordered a mediator to issue terms for a settlement, saying the gap in the deadlocked talks was “not sufficient to justify a continued work stoppage.”

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