Significant National and International Support for BC Port Workers

Young port workers from Tacoma, Washington, join members of ILWU Local 500 on picket lines
in  Vancouver.

No matter what attempts the federal or BC governments or the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) make to isolate BC port workers and portray their demands as self-serving or unreasonable in today's economy, the port workers are part of an international working class movement which stands in the forefront of defending the rights which belong to port workers by right. They carry out hard, difficult work and require proper conditions of employment, wages and health and safety protections. The large number of messages they have received from their counterparts abroad is a clear warning to their employers not to abuse this work force which is the decisive component of the supply chains. From the time that the port workers announced the result of their strike vote they have been receiving significant messages of support from transportation workers in Canada and around the world as well as from other unions. The messages are posted to their facebook page. They include:

The Canadian Merchant Service Guild expressed its full support saying that while they are limited by federal legislation on how they show their support on the picket lines they consider the west coast dock workers fight their fight and will find ways to show that support.

The BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union sent a message of support and solidarity from its 4,300 workers on the BC coast stating, "We applaud your strike notice to BCMEA due to their refusal to negotiate a fair deal including wages, automation and Union jurisdiction. BCMEA must have forgotten how essential ILWU members were during the pandemic, while they reaped massive profits off the backs of workers everywhere."

The Retail Wholesale Union BC sent a letter of support stating that its members will visit the dockers picket lines in support for as long as it takes for the workers to win their demands.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) wrote to the federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan on behalf of their 425,000 members supporting the demands of the ILWU Canada and expressing their concerns about the federal government intervening in the dockworkers strike and stating that they sincerely hoped the minister was not considering denying the workers their right to free collective bargaining.

The International Longshoremen's Association pledged that their members would not handle any cargo diverted from BC ports during the strike saying, "Union dockers of the world stand united."

The International Dockworkers Council reiterated the main demands of the dockworkers and said, "All our support in your just demands. For a fair agreement that protects the workers, their jobs/tasks and provides socio-economic stability for the workers' families."

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF) stated that they will ensure the resources of the ITWF are made available to the dockworkers to get a just settlement stating that the proposals of the BCMEA "would bring about systematic destruction of their jobs, rights and entitlements which would have a catastrophic impact not just on the longshore workers but on the industry and their local communities.

The Dockers section of ITWF, representing some half million dock workers worldwide stated: "It's absolutely vital current and future longshore workers in Canada and elsewhere are protected from profit-driven inflation and rising costs, the destructive impact of port automation and new technologies, as well as the serious and harmful threat to quality jobs contracting out brings."

The Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers' Union in Sri Lanka expressed their "fullest support and solidarity with your strike action against the employer who does not recognize the genuine needs of employees and look for ONLY their profit. It's a global trend that employers out source or use precarious types of workers to weaken unions and their bargaining power. This is a common threat we all face that needs more attention and a common struggle to defeat it. We wish you success in your strike action."

The Dockworkers of the Vakgroep Haven van Antwerpen in Belgium sent a video message of solidarity.

The FNV Havens Dockers in the Netherlands representing more than 6,200 workers in Dutch seaports expressed its outrage that the negotiations had dragged on for so long and stated that they have been able to negotiate that new jobs coming out of port automation would be covered under their collective agreements, pointing out that automation had to also benefit the workers.

The Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union sent its greeting to the dockworkers saying, "Let us stand firm and united for the cause. Solidarity forever."

The National Federation of Dockworkers' Unions of Japan reiterated the main demands being put forward by the dock workers and expressed their full support.

The European Transport Workers' Federation stated that the federation representing more than 5 million workers in 38 countries fully stands by their side pointing out that during Covid "The dockers showed great sense of responsibility and dedication, ensuring essential goods and medical supplies were properly loaded and unloaded and that all shipments reached their final destinations, to the benefit of their communities." They stated that governments should not intervene in collective bargaining.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand states that maritime workers in that country have faced similar tough challenges in regards to automation and contracting out but through persistent work have made progress on both fronts. It said that the solidarity provided to them by the Canadian dockworkers in particular in the Port of Aukland strike will never be forgotten and they will do whatever they can to back the dockworkers in their fight.

Messages were also received from transportation workers in Uruguay, Argentina, the Ivory Coast and Australia.

Members of the BC Government Employees Union join port workers on the picket line in Chemainus,
July 4, 2023

(Photos: ILWU Canada)

This article was published in
Number 35 - July 5, 2023

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