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Vancouver tugboat crews may strike 0

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

A tugboat in Vancouver harbour. (REUTERS)

A tugboat in Vancouver harbour. (REUTERS)

Tugboat crews on British Columbia’s coast will vote Tuesday on a strike — a move which could slow the movement of goods in and out of Canada for a second time this year due to a labour dispute. 

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 400 represents the crew members and has accused the employer, Seaspan, of attempting to provoke them by making 46 changes to their contract.

“ILWU local 400 has not been on strike since it was formed in the 1950s, but there is no way our 350 members can allow Seaspan to impose a ridiculous contract on us that it wrote itself,” union president Terry Engler said. “That’s not collective bargaining — that’s dictation and the ILWU won’t be taking dictation from Seaspan.”

But Seaspan said the changes are necessary to “improve our competitive position” and said the changes would save customers money and allow the company to reinvest in its fleet.

The company said it has been negotiating with the crew members since October 2013.

“Negotiations can often be emotionally taxing, but we are committed to the success of our business, our customers and our crucial role providing marine transportation solutions in the Asia-Pacific Gateway,” Seaspan said to 24 hours in an email.

The ILWU insisted the company is applying “U.S.-style labour relations” and warned Seaspan to back off or the tugboat crews could “cripple” the port with a strike.

Earlier this year, Port Metro Vancouver was closed down due to a strike of truckers servicing it, causing delays and freight pileups.  

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