July 20, 2023 | Circular No. 11560

Dear Member,

You will find below a recap of recent developments regarding the BC labour disruption, along with a summary of information that was provided during today’s stakeholder call with Transport Canada:

ILWU Actions and Impacts

  • Following the ILWU’s unexpected withdrawal of its 72-hour strike notice yesterday evening, longshore workers have generally continued their return to work.
  • Nevertheless, the ILWU continues to reject the tentative agreement that was reached last week, and there is no indication that the parties are going to engage in any further negotiations (and indeed, the BCMEA has stated that it has no intention of restarting negotiations given the deal that it ratified last week).
  • All of this has created a great deal of uncertainty throughout the supply chain, which is being expressed in a number of ways – including reluctance on the part of some shippers to commit to new orders and / or to use west coast routings, reluctance on the part of the railways to commit full resources to the recovery effort, and reluctance among some terminals to allow ships to berth.
  • Although the federal government continues to say that it is considering all options for restoring supply chain certainty, the fact that the ILWU is no longer engaged in strike action makes some of those options (including the introduction of back-to-work legislation) much less clear and / or viable than they were 24 hours ago.
  • As reported yesterday, one option the Labour Minister does have at his disposal is to bypass the ILWU leadership by taking the tentative agreement that was reached last week directly to the union membership for a vote (although this also carries significant risk, especially if the deal is voted down).

Port & Rail Operations

Despite all of the above, port and railway operations have been returning to more normal status, at least in the short term:

  • The Port of Vancouver reports that operations have resumed to where they were 24 to 36 hours ago and pickets have come down.  Eight container vessels are currently at berth and 11 are awaiting entry into the port’s jurisdiction.  The port is also monitoring 15 vessels that are drifting offshore (the majority of which are bulk vessels and car carriers).  Anchorage usage remains fluid at 44 percent capacity for VFPA anchorages and 47% for SGI anchorages.
  • The Port of Prince Rupert reports that its container terminals were fully operational by 16:30 yesterday afternoon, with no issues or challenges related to ILWU members returning to work.  The port has two container vessels alongside, which will clear within the next 24 hours, and expects to handle a significant amount of additional cargo over the next week or two.
  • Both CN and CPKC have highlighted the negative impact that the uncertainty of the last 24 hours has had on their customers, and the resulting need to ensure that they allocate the necessary resources to the recovery effort while operating in the leanest manner possible given the possibility of further labour disruptions in the coming days and weeks.

We will continue to monitor this evolving situation and issue another update to members after tomorrow’s conference call with Transport Canada if warranted.


Karen Kancens
Vice President