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Longshoremen And Employers Reach Tentative Deal

Photo of The Lonshoreman’s Noon by John George Brown

After several weeks of on again off again work stoppages and union strike notices declared then rescinded which created uncertainty and frustration across the industry, we now seem to be on the verge of a negotiated labour settlement for Western Canadian ports.

On July 30, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU Canada) and the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) announced they had reached a tentative, negotiated collective agreement. The ILWU membership is now expected to have their official vote for the contract offer on August 3 and August 4.

Full details of the agreement are yet to be released but it is expected to be a four year deal.

A little over two weeks ago, on July 13, the ILWU negotiators had endorsed a similar offer that appeared to have ended the 15 day strike, but in a surprising turn the 70-member leadership caucus subsequently reviewed and rejected the proposed deal.

Confusion ensued as the ILWU walked back out on strike only for the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to order them back to work the following day for failing to deliver a fresh 72 hour strike notice after tentatively agreeing to the deal. The union promptly issued the new strike notice, only to rescind it several hours later. A general vote was then announced for July 27, at which time the proposal was rejected by the membership.

Finally, under the looming threat of government mandated binding arbitration, the latest agreement was reached three days later on July 30.

The final sticking point that created this uncertainty over the last week was reported to have been the wording in the provision that “normal” maintenance work on terminal equipment would continue to be done by ILWU union members. The ILWU caucus reportedly felt the use of “normal” was too vague and would eventually lead to terminals using outside contractors resulting in the loss of ILWU maintenance jobs.

Lets just hope there are no more last minute surprises.

Time line of events:

Feb 16 – Negotiations begin between the ILWU and the BCMEA
Mar 31 – The existing collective agreement between the BCMEA and the ILWU expires.
Jun 05 – The ILWU’s negotiating committee authorizes a strike vote to be conducted on June 9 and 10.
Jun 12 – The ILWU says members voted 99.24 per cent in favour of supporting strike action if necessary.
Jun 28 – The ILWU serves 72-hour strike notice.
Jul 01 – Strike commences at B.C. ports, shutting down operations at most of the province’s marine terminals.
Jul 11 – Canadian government asks a mediator to draft terms for a potential settlement agreement.
Jul 13 – The BCMEA announces a tentative, four-year agreement has been reached with the ILWU. Port operations resume.
Jul 18 – The ILWU announces its leadership caucus voted down the mediator’s terms, and workers are back on strike. Picket lines resume
Jul 19 – The Canada Industrial Relations Board rules the ILWU’s move to strike on July 18 was unlawful because no 72-hour notice was provided.
Jul 19 – The ILWU issues a new 72-hour notice to strike and rescinds the notice hours later.
Jul 20 – The ILWU’s leadership announces it is recommending the agreement and it will be put to a vote.
Jul 28 – ILWU members vote on the agreement.
Jul 28 – ILWU announces that its members have voted to reject the agreement.
Jul 30 – The ILWU and the BCMEA release a joint statement announcing they have reached a new tentative agreement, with leaders of both sides recommending ratification to their members. The industrial relations board orders that the union vote no later than Aug. 4

Gangway Nets

GangwaynetOne of the most pertinent issues facing grain vessels in the Port of Vancouver is that of gangway nets or ‘save-alls.’ Starting around the beginning of November 2018 we noticed a trend of claims arising against vessels for delays in loading related to non-confirming gangway nets. These issues emanate from longshore labour refusing to board a vessel at a given grain terminal if it is ruled that the netting encompassing the gangway does not fully comply with the standard described in the MOHS Regulations (specifically – ANSI/ASSE Standard A10.11-1989 (R1998)).

Throughout the last couple of months, the majority of issues pertaining to the netting falls within the following categories (taken from ANSI/ASSE) –

6.2 Personnel nets shall be designed and constructed to minimize fall-arrest injuries sustained in the
course of normal use when installed in accordance with the manufacturers’ specifications and the requirements of this standard. Manufacturers shall pay particular attention to 6.3 through 6.6.
6.3 Mesh openings should be small in order to spread the deceleration force through as many net strands as possible, and to minimize entanglement of a fallen person’s head, arms, and legs when arresting the fall. The maximum size of mesh shall not exceed 36 square inches or be longer than 6 inches on any side, measured center-to-center of mesh ropes or webbing. No mesh member shall exceed 6 inches in length measured center-to-center of mesh crossings. All mesh crossings shall be anchored to eliminate frictional wear and prevent enlargement of the mesh openings.
6.4 Design, materials, and construction shall combine to produce a net that will minimize the deceleration and rebound force when arresting a fall.

Each personnel net shall be permanently labeled with the following information:
(1) Name of manufacturer
(2) Identification of net material
(3) Date of manufacture
(4) Date of prototype test
(5) Name of testing agency
(f-5) Serial number

We have made it a point to stress to the Master and crew of an inbound vessel that their gangway net must be in full compliance otherwise loading will not commence until the longshoreman are satisfied the issues have been fully rectified. Obviously this can amount to significant delays especially if a new gangway net is required prior to the commencement of loading.

Fraser Grain Terminal

FraserGrainTerminalIn late 2018 a permit was granted to expand and ultimately replace the currently standing grain berth at Fraser Surrey Docks. The newly coined Fraser Grain Terminal will be located on port authority land in Surrey, BC accessible by bulk vessels through the Fraser River. The new project is the product of a 50/50 joint venture between GrainsConnect Canada and Canadian grain exporters Parrish & Heimbecker. GrainsConnect Canada is a collective enterprise between GrainCorp, an Australian agribusiness, and Zen-Noh Grain Corporation. According to their website (www.frasergrainterminal.ca) the “terminal will load approximately 80 bulk vessels per year (approx. 1-3 vessels per week), including Panamax, Supramax and Handy-size vessels. Work was slated to commence late 2018 with initial stages focusing on concrete pouring, utility removal, and underground utility installation. The terminals projected yearly output is proposed to increase up to “3.5 million metric tonnes per annum of grain products” among them – “wheat, barley, oil seeds, and pulses.” Target completion date for this project is December 2020.

Key features of the Fraser Grain Terminal include:

  • Rail unloading station
  • Transfer system comprising one transfer tower and fully enclosed above-ground conveying equipment with a built-in dust suppression system
  • 25 above-ground steel storage silos (20 x 3,500 t, 4 x 400 t and 1 x 710 t)
  • Three shiploaders with choke fed or cascading type telescopic spouts to reduce dust during vessel loading, replacing the existing ship loader fitted with older technology
  • Semi-loop rail track
  • Realignment of an existing rail track
  • Extension to three existing rail holding tracks in an area to the north east of the main grain facility site to reduce shunting during unloading
  • Construction of an integrated truck and railcar loading facility and container loading facility with associated container storage yard
  • Construction of ancillary buildings — administration building, maintenance shop, and electrical rooms

G3 Terminal

G3TerminalConstruction of the latest terminal to join the Port of Vancouver’s group of grain exporters, G3 Terminal, is well underway (commenced March 7, 2017). According to the G3 Terminal Vancouver Community Update December 2018 the next steps involve the “installation of equipment and structures for the silos, scale and cleaning buildings and supports for the installation of various conveyors that will transport grain from unloading, weighing, cleaning, and storage to ship loading.” Situated on the North Shore of the Port of Vancouver between Neptune Bulk Terminals and Lynnterm Terminal, G3 Terminal is anticipated to handle the following products – wheat, soybeans, canola, peas, corn and specialty agri-products.

Based on the current progress, it is expected that the terminal will be ready to start receiving grain into her projected 180,000 mt storage by the end of 2019 with commission date not far behind in 2020. As of December 2018, approximately 95% of concrete work, and 60% of steel work has completed on the site. Some key characteristics from their website include (www.g3terminalvancouver.ca) –

  • A railcar receiving facility that can unload two rail cars simultaneously. This facility will include a rail track loop configuration that allows for the storage or holding of up to three trains; the maximum rail loop can support a train up to 2,680 metres (8,793 ft.) in length.
  • A conveyor system network that begins at the railcar receiving facility, traveling partially through an underpass, onto the terminal’s bulk scale and sampling systems, then on to the storage facility and cleaning house, and finally onto the ship loading facility to be placed on berthed vessels.
  • A grain storage facility consisting of up to forty-eight (48) concrete storage silos with an overhead conveyor system for distributing grain commodities. The storage facility is approximately 64.0 metres (210 ft.) tall, the silos being approximately 42.6 metres (140 ft.) tall and the remaining 21.3 metres (70 ft.) of height consisting of the overhead conveyor system and associated spouting and structures.
  • A grain cleaning facility 81 metres (264 ft.) tall that will clean and direct grain(s) to storage. The cleaning facility consists of conveying equipment, grain cleaning equipment, grain bins and by-products bins, a by-product load out system and other related systems.

Feeder Hole loading

FeederHoleAs expected, the ILWU is not making the process easy to resume the practice of loading grain through feeder holes in the Port of Vancouver. There was a meeting held on January 15 with the stevedore companies and the ILWU that unfortunately did not end well. Despite having an engineer present to address the Union’s concerns about combustion due to static, the Union still seems to be hesitant to dismiss their concerns and work towards a solution.

The following is a summary provided by a local stevedoring company –


The purpose of the meeting on January 15, 2019 was to address the unions concerns and provide solutions to the bonding and grounding of the equipment along with the static build up if any on the hopper. Evan Sherman (Morrow Engineering) went through his report and recommendations to address both areas of concern. He recommended isolation instead of grounding/bonding which means putting up a barrier around the hopper during loading and attach a cable from the pipe to the hopper to address the static issue. Evan stated that the static buildup on the hopper is minimal and any static would be dissipated in wet weather. The union was satisfied with the cable recommendation to address their static concerns. However, the union was still not satisfied that grounding the hopper was not necessary. The union believes there’s a potential electrical hazard if a motor in gallery malfunctions (Example a splice in the electrical cable creating an arc in the system). The engineer explained that if a motor faults, the neutral grounding/circuit breakers at the terminal serves as engineering controls to prevent a worker from being shocked. The union was still not satisfied and continue to make ridiculous suggestions on ways to ground the vessel. The union commented at one point that the loading spout and the elbow which is attached to the pipe is a potential hazard which is ridiculous. The meeting ended abruptly. It was quite evident during the meeting that the union has no intentions to load during inclement weather.


A further meeting was conducted on the morning of January 24 which has since reinforced the strategy going forward (see below). Additionally, a ‘safety expert’ is to be called in to conduct a risk analysis. Once the analysis has been completed a report is then to be sent to all parties detailing the potential hazards of the procedures.

  1. Revise our Universal HPP and SOP to incorporate the bonding/grounding and static issue and the potential electrical hazards as per the engineer’s report.
  2. Have a meeting with our respective safety committees to present the revised SOP.
  3. Issue a letter to the union with our intentions to begin loading through feeder during inclement weather with the revised SOP and all relevant hazards have been addressed.
  4. If the union refuses to work as directed on the first trial run, we will call the regulator (Port Warden to rule on the work stoppage)
  5. If the Port Warden rules in our favor and the union continues the work stoppage, we would at this point to involve an arbitrator to address the refuse to work.

Additionally, for those parties with a vested interest in the grain industry – it is important to note the following excerpt from the Canadian Labour Code, Part I of Industrial Relations –


During a strike or lockout not prohibited by this Part, an employer in the long-shoring industry, or other industry included in paragraph (a) of the definition federal work, undertaking or business in section 2, its employees and their bargaining agent shall continue to provide the services they normally provide to ensure the tie-up, let-go and loading of grain vessels at licensed terminal and transfer elevators, and the movement of the grain vessels in and out of a port.


For more information on this obligation to service grain vessels, please click here.