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Union vote begins on B.C. port deal that could end months-long dispute

International Longshore and Warehouse Union members vote from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow
Workers attend a strike rally in Vancouver on Sunday, July 9, 2023. Workers in the ongoing British Columbia port dispute are taking a full-union vote to determine if the latest deal recommended by negotiators is acceptable, with the possible end to the months-long conflict in the balance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

A union vote among British Columbia port workers is underway to determine the fate of a deal with employers that could bring their long-running industrial dispute to an end.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada is holding its vote from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow to decide whether to ratify the agreement recommended by negotiators.

Rejection would raise the prospect of more federal involvement in the case, with the Canada Industrial Relations Board directed to impose a deal or binding arbitration on both sides if a negotiated resolution can’t be reached.

The dispute shut down more than 30 port terminals and other sites for 13 days in July.

Labour lawyer Don Eady says workers in Canada across multiple sectors are facing the dual threat of wage increases not keeping up with inflation, as well as the erosion of jobs caused by automation and the use of contractors.

Eady, who is a partner at Toronto-based firm Paliare Roland, says port workers have to decide if the language in the new deal addresses those issues adequately for members, and it is within their legal rights to reject the agreement because it is ultimately another step toward a settlement under the collective bargaining system.

The union in the port dispute had voted down a previous agreement a week ago in another full membership vote, but no strike action has been taken since a brief stoppage on July 18.

READ ALSO: Labour experts urge caution ahead of union vote to end B.C. port dispute