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Ag sector pens letter to Trudeau over B.C. port strike

Ag sector pens letter to Trudeau over B.C. port strike

A long strike has multiple risks for agriculture and food, groups say

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Members of the Canadian ag sector are taking their concerns about the ongoing port strike in B.C. to the prime minister.

Nineteen organizations representing the livestock, grain and food industries have sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau warning him of the effects a prolonged work stoppage could have on agriculture and food.

“A lengthy disruption to this essential service will lead to loss of perishable goods and could have a negative impact on animal welfare,” the July 11 letter says. “Loss of export sales will have a significant and negative effect on our farm families and those employed throughout our supply chain.”

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canola Council of Canada and Grain Growers of Canada are among the signatories on the letter. The federal ministers of labour, transport, agriculture and trade are copied on the document.

More than 7,000 dock workers represented by the International Longshore Warehouse Union Canada have been on strike since July 1.

Workers walked off the job over issues like the cost of living, port automation and outside contracting.

This work stoppage is affecting 30 ports operated by the B.C. Maritime Employers Association.

On July 9, the Globe and Mail reported the strike is affecting up to $775 million in trade per day.

Since the strike started, multiple organizations from ag and other industries have expressed worry over the stoppage.

On July 11, for example, Nutrien announced a reduction in potash production at its Cory potash mine in Saskatchewan because of the strike.

“We urge the parties in this dispute to come to a swift resolution to prevent further damage to the Canadian economy,” Ken Seitz, president and CEO of Nutrien, said in a statement.

Also on July 11, B.C.’s Canfor Pulp announced it is curtailing production at its Northwood mill in Prince George as of July 13 because of the strike and will remain in place until the strike ends.

“As a result of the strike, we are unable to ship approximately 70 per cent of our pulp products to customers in Asia,” Kevin Edgson, president and CEO of Canfor Pulp, said in a statement.

The federal government is working to end the strike.

On July 11, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan gave a federal mediator 24 hours to send him terms to end the strike.

“I have decided that the difference between the employer’s and union’s positions is not sufficient to justify a continued work stoppage,” he said in a statement.

Once the minister receives the mediator’s recommendations, he will forward them to the union and employer. Those two parties will then have 24 hours to decide on ratifying the agreement.

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