OTTAWA – Canada’s federal labour minister says the government’s latest attempt to prevent disruptive disputes at British Columbia’s ports will lead to change this time.
Seamus O’Regan promised to follow through on recommendations from a review of what went wrong during the port strike this summer that stopped cargo from moving through Canada’s busiest ports.
Previous studies dating back to the 1990s on the contentious relationship between the longshore union and BC Maritime Employers Association have led to multiple recommendations that were not implemented, but O’Regan says this time will be different.
The minister has appointed two experts from Kingston’s Queen’s University to lead the review and he has asked them to identify key questions and propose a terms of reference by the end of the year.
O’Regan says the goal of the latest review is to “examine the structural issues underlying” the dispute that saw strike action for nearly two weeks in July before a tentative deal was reached, only to be rejected by the union caucus.
Workers briefly went back to the picket lines before the strike action was ruled illegal, followed by weeks of uncertainty before a tentative deal was announced again.
O’Regan says Canada needs to send a clear signal to investors and industry that its supply chain is stable by creating a structure that can withstand disruptions, while not taking away from the collective bargaining process.
“Once I saw (previous reports on the issue) I really realized it was incumbent upon me, it was a responsibility, to make sure that we followed up on this,” O’Regan said.
“Only because it has happened time and time again, and people have said something needs to be done in a more structural way, and so I’ll do it. So, let’s see what they come up with.”
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