Union says it’s holding ’emergency’ meeting with potential port strike deal on the table | CBC News

The uncertainty at ports in British Columbia is persisting Friday after the workers’ union said a tentative agreement had been reached for the second time in a week, the latest development in the high-stakes labour dispute.

A statement from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) on Thursday said a tentative agreement has been reached with the B.C. Maritime Employers Association.

The union will hold an “emergency contract caucus” on Friday to decide whether the deal will be sent to the full union membership for ratification.

The BCMEA has not confirmed the latest development.

Meanwhile, work resumed at ports across B.C. on Thursday, including Canada’s largest in Vancouver, as ILWU Canada workers returned to their jobs following brief strike action on Tuesday.

The shift followed a tumultuous week in the labour dispute that saw the union voting down a federal mediator’s terms, then issuing but quickly rescinding a new 72-hour strike notice, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convening the federal incident response group.

In a statement Friday, the federal Ministry of Labour said “it is our hope that the union will ratify the proposed four-year agreement.”

The union had rejected a previous tentative deal brokered by a federal mediator that would have ended the dispute, which caused a 13-day work stoppage at B.C. ports earlier this month.

Workers went back to their jobs this week after the Canada Industrial Relations Board ruled the brief strike on Tuesday was illegal because 72 hours’ notice had not been given.

Mark Thompson, University of British Columbia professor emeritus at the Sauder School of Business, says port strikes common in the 1980s and 1990s weren’t allowed to drag on as this latest dispute has done.

An ILWU Canada worker pickets outside of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association dispatch centre in Vancouver on July 3, shortly after the initial strike was launched. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“The government [today] is very reluctant to enact back-to-work legislation, so we are in uncharted territory right now,” he said.

On Thursday, Trudeau said it was “unacceptable” that the union rejected the tentative deal worked out with a mediator that had been agreed to by both sides.

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