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Trudeau says pressure is on to end B.C. port strike, on day 7 of stoppage

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said strike causing ‘extreme hardship’ for her province
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, pauses for a photo as he walks the grounds of the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Friday, July 7, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will continue putting pressure on both sides to end the British Columbia port strike, as the stoppage drags on for a seventh day.

Trudeau, who’s in Calgary, said he’s aware of how “impactful” the strike has been on producers in the Prairies.

About 7,400 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada walked off the job on Saturday at about 30 ports in B.C.

There’s been no sign of a break in the deadlock that emerged when talks broke down on Monday.

The BC Maritime Employers Association is urging the union to return to bargaining under “a voluntary mediation-arbitration process,” while the union accuses the employers of trying to get the government to do its “dirty work.”

Trudeau said the best deals are made at the bargaining table, and he knows that “a solution is out there.”

“But I also know that pressure is mounting day by day and people are really, really worried what things could look like next week, and we are as well,” Trudeau said.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Friday that the port strike was causing “extreme hardship” for her province’s producers and exporters.

She said she had written to Trudeau asking him to recall Parliament to end the strike.

Alberta transport minister Devin Dreeshen had earlier called on the federal government to consider back-to-work legislation.

Opposition members of the British Columbia Legislature added their voices to business and political groups demanding action to end the strike.

A statement issued Friday by BC United members Greg Kyllo and Ben Stewart said New Democrat Premier David Eby must call on the federal government to intervene in the job action.

“While premiers from other provinces have voiced their concerns, Premier David Eby and NDP Labour Minister Harry Bains have remained silent as the strike’s effects continue to escalate,” Kyllo said in the statement.

The employers association, which represents 49 firms operating out of B.C. ports, issued a statement Thursday that said it had learned of layoffs in related industries due to the job action.

It said the strike had potentially disrupted $4.6 billion worth of cargo.

The B.C. Council of Forest Industries was also calling for federal intervention, or for dock workers and port employers to reach a quick resolution.

The organization’s chief economist, Kurt Niquidet, said some forest companies were mulling shipments by rail or truck to get their lumber to the United States, but that was not an option for companies needing access to Asian markets.

Longshore workers voted overwhelmingly for strike action to seek improved wages and provisions against contracting out and automation.

There have been no talks since the two sides hit an impasse over maintenance issues.

Union president Rob Ashton told a solidarity rally on Thursday that the employers association has walked away from the table three times.

He told the crowd gathered near the Port of Vancouver that the employers were waiting for the federal government to do their “dirty work instead of treating workers with respect” by negotiating.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan has urged the two sides to use mediators and resume talks.

READ ALSO: B.C. port strike enters day 7 as union, employers association trade barbs