June 30, 2023 | Circular No. 11545

Dear Member,

Further to CL 11541, we have sent the attached LETTER to the federal Ministers of Labour and Transport regarding the possibility of a withdrawal of longshore services at Canada’s west coast ports.  Although our letter urges the Ministers to do everything in their power to help the parties reach a negotiated settlement over the next 24 hours, it also highlights the need for government to be prepared to act swiftly should a work stoppage occur.

It is worth noting that realistically speaking, the government only has two tools at its disposal for dealing with labour disputes – one being moral persuasion and influence (to be used during the negotiating process), and the other being the introduction of back-to-work legislation (to be potentially used in the event that a strike does occur). The last time the government used back-to-work legislation to end a port labour dispute was during the Port of Montreal strike in April 2021, when it signalled its intention to introduce such legislation very shortly after the union issued its strike notice.  Nevertheless, the time lapse between the legislation’s introduction in Parliament and its coming into force was about five days – which highlights the fact that this can be a cumbersome tool to implement.

It is our understanding that negotiations between the ILWU and the BCMEA have been ongoing since yesterday morning with the assistance of the federal mediation service, and that Labour Minister O’Regan is on standby to travel to Vancouver as required.

Transport Canada has convened a meeting of supply chain stakeholders to discuss this issue later today.  We will be participating in this meeting and will revert to members with any new information we obtain.  We also continue to engage with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on this issue, which will be convening regular meetings to provide updates to its members should a strike occur.


Karen Kancens
Vice President