The dispute between union dockworkers and Mitsui-owned United Grain has escalated since the company locked out 44 dockworkers on 27 February after it alleged that a union official had sabotaged equipment in December, an accusation the ILWU denies. The union has since witnessed the company bringing in replacement workers. Some local church leaders have organised a petition in support of the dockworkers and have joined protests outside the local Holiday Inn where the replacement workers are staying.
The dispute is over the changes to an 80-year-old collective bargaining agreement, as part of a larger conflict between grain-terminal operators and union dockworkers in the Pacific Northwest. The ILWU claims that the company’s imposed contract is concessionary and severely undercuts the union’s ability to represent workers on a variety of workplace matters.
The Vancouver police have forwarded around two dozen, in the view of the union frivolous, charges against ILWU members in relation to the protests over the last nine weeks to the city attorney’s office for review. ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said it was her understanding that there had been five citations and two arrests, “all misdemeanors”. She added: “Each of the workers has pled not guilty, and each one will be vigorously defended.”
Sargent added: “The law enforcement response on the picket line is excessive and designed to intimidate the picketers and trespass on speech rights. The Vancouver police are simply acting in concert with Mitsui. It’s truly unfortunate but not unexpected.”
To show support for the locked out dockworkers, visit Labour Start’s campaign page.