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B. C. Port Workers Ratify New Agreement

Representatives from both the union for about 450 British Columbia dock and ship workers and their employers confirmed Friday that union members have ratified a new collective agreement after months of mediated negotiations.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union of Canada (ILWU) Local 514 took a ratification vote Feb. 24 but the results of the vote were not released until late Friday, as mail-in votes were still being accepted until last Thursday.

The new labour agreement is retroactive to April 1, 2007, one day after the workers’ previous contract expired, and runs through March 31, 2010, according to a release from the employers’ group, the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA).

Details of the collective agreement have not yet been made public.

The ratification ends months of uncertainty for companies worried about a labour disruption at British Columbia’s busy Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert ports.

The threat of a strike had caused concern for pulse and special crop exporters, who ship their products primarily by container and whose shipments would have been disrupted had ILWU workers walked off the job.

Grain shipments, considered an essential service, would have been the only type of cargo that would have continued to flow in the event of a strike.

Port Metro Vancouver, which is an amalgamation of Fraser River Port Authority, North Fraser Port Authority and Vancouver Port Authority, is Canada’s largest and busiest port. It trades $75 billion in goods with more than 130 trading economies annually and in 2008 handled nearly 115 million tonnes of cargo.

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