By Leo Ryan of American Journal of Transportation – Click here to view original article.

Although in a legal strike position Monday (May 27th), the union representing longshore workers in the Vancouver area instead took targeted job action by notably banning overtime and left the door open to resuming negotiations with maritime employers on Canada’s west coast that had found no resolution over the weekend. The limited job action began early Monday at the GCT Deltaport and GCT Vanterm container terminals, which account for the bulk of container cargo at Canada’s largest port.

DP World’s operations at the Port of Prince Rupert and the Centerm and Fraser Surrey Docks terminals in the Port of Vancouver were not involved.

Earlier in May, the more than 6,000 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada voted 98% in favor of a strike if talks failed to renew a contract that expired on March 31, 2018 with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA).

“Our goal is to keep the ports open with minimal disruption to trade,” said union President Rob Ashton. “We remain optimistic that a fair deal can be reached through the constitutionally protected bargaining process.”

Asked what key issues were at stake, Ashton singled out union “concerns over automation of the workplace and the potential devastation to our communities.”

Interviewed by the American Journal of Transportation, Ashton notably alluded to “the major impact on job losses” resulting from the full automation of Long Beach Container Terminal several years ago. “Once a terminal becomes automated, there is a domino effect immediately.”

There has recently been rising opposition to further automation on container operations by longshore unions on the US East and West Coasts.

The current labor action is carried out by ILWU Canada Locals 500 and 502. It is the first job action by this union in more than two decades.

BCMEA president Jeff Scott said a port-wide stoppage could cost millions a day in lost business. He stressed the employers were doing their utmost to avoid such a development.

Danielle Jang, spokesperson for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, expressed the hope that “the two parties can reach a resolution quickly. One dollar in every three in Canada’s trade in goods beyond North America moves through the Port of Vancouver, so any type of work stoppage would be extremely disruptive to the business of the port and would have immediate and direct negative impacts throughout the supply chain, and on Canada’s economy.”

Sparked by mounting trade with Asia, the Port of Vancouver has seen its container cargo rise steadily, totaling nearly 3.4 million TEU in 2018. Capacity expansion is planned to meet demand.

This article has been shared from the American Journal of Transportation.