A four-day unpaid suspension for 94 ILWU Local 505 workers has been reduced to one day unpaid, a letter to the union president from DP World stated on June 23.
“After reviewing the circumstances of June 15 and 16, DP World Prince Rupert and ILWU Local 505 have agreed on a without prejudice or precedent basis to mitigate the discipline imposed on the 94 employees and reduce the suspension from three days to one for failing to show to work …” Ian Robinson manager of yard and gate for DP World stated in the letter addressed to Jimmy Andriff, Local 505 president.
The reduced suspension was valid from 4:30 p.m. on June 22 to 4:30 p.m. on June 23.
As previously reported in The Northern View, 94 workers were suspended on June 21 for refusing to cross a picket line on June 15 and 16, set up by demonstrators protesting the Israeli-linked container ship JPO Volans. The Volans had previously been refused entry into Oakland California, and Vancouver for unloading of cargo before making its way to Prince Rupert to unload.
Suspended union members received a phone call on the afternoon of June 23, and also letters were available in the union hall for each member advising them they could return to work. However, the one-day suspension without pay would remain on their employment files.
But even the one-day suspension is completely unfair, and should not be listed on the member’s files, especially those who have had no past disciplinary action against them, ILWU workers told The Northern View.
Workers who spoke to The Northern View, which has agreed not to identify them because of the risk of reprisals, said that none of the 94 workers should have any discipline as they were told by management that there would be no repercussions if workers felt uncomfortable crossing the line.
“I’m a strong union person. It’s in my blood and I’m not going to pass a picket line,” the worker said, as fellow union workers in Oakland, California also did not cross picket lines and other longshore worker’s unions were asked to stand in support solidarity.
“Our concerns were for our own safety and our workers in distress. You know, there’s no contract worth crossing a picket line for. It is one of our 10 guiding principles,” they said.
Picketers were initially blocking traffic at the entrance to the DP World Fairview container terminal.
“Originally, they [protesters] on the first day did have picket signs right across the road where the street trucks are going inside. They were physically blocking cars from going in,” the workers said.
On the second day of picketing, the BC Maritime Employers Association and DP World Prince Rupert, supported by the Prince Rupert Port Authority, obtained an emergency injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court that was posted at the site of the protest. The result being, pickets lines moved down to Highway 16.
Protesters would picket timed with the night shift start, the ILWU employees said. Eventually, the ship was unloaded by staff who entered when the demonstrators were not present, thus avoiding union members crossing any picket line.
Workers, while still in ‘shock’ over the happenings, said they were relieved that DP World retracted its position on recovering economic loss from the workers, as stated in the June 21 letter that they would pursue.
“In addition, DP World Prince Rupert has agreed on a without prejudice or precedent basis not to pursue damages related to the ZIM Volans matter,” Robinson states in the newest letter.
“A very important question for me,” one of the workers said, “Is the [original suspension] letter being removed from our file — because the letter says any further disruptive behaviour can lead up to, and including deregistration. So, that is blanket across 94 people now.”
The list of the suspended includes longshore workers, maintenance crews, mechanics, electricians, and trades.
“That is a really threatening sentence … ” one of the ILWU members said, because should anything else go wrong any one of the 94 workers could be removed from the union and lose their livelihood.
Workers voiced that the suspensions would also go against the collective agreement.
“Going right to a one-day suspension in our eyes is all wrong because according to our collective agreement, you have progressive discipline, which starts out with a verbal warning followed up by a written warning, then one, three, and seven-day suspensions depending on the severity of the infraction,” they said.
An option for union members is to grieve the suspension. Any grievance must be filed within three days, leaving the deadline short for June 25.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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