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Gantry cranes sit idle above cruise ships and stacks of cargo containers at port during a strike by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada workers in Vancouver, on July 12.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan is seeking to end the strike by 7,400 B.C. port workers by sending the terms of a federal mediator’s contract proposal to the union and employers.

Mr. O’Regan e-mailed the proposal to the two sides at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, setting a 24-hour deadline for responses in hopes of ending a walkout that has disrupted billions of dollars of trade and prompted warnings from business groups about severe economic damage.

“I think there is a good deal right in front of them,” Mr. O’Regan said in an interview on Wednesday in Vancouver, where he has been stationed for nearly two weeks during the labour strife. “This is a huge national priority.”

Peter Simpson, director-general of the federal mediation and conciliation service, drafted the document that proposes a four-year collective agreement, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

The International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) has sought a two-year deal while the BC Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) proposed a four-year pact.

The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

As B.C. port strike drags on, union blames ‘greed’ of shipping companies

The strike by unionized waterfront employees started on Canada Day, hitting the Port of Vancouver, the Port of Prince Rupert in northern B.C. and terminals on Vancouver Island.

“I’m not imposing an agreement. I feel that they are that close. I characterized it as a forceful nudge,” said Mr. O’Regan, who decided on Tuesday night to use his powers under the Canada Labour Code to request that a federal mediator draft a recommended settlement.

“We’ve got to get over the finish line,” he said. “I worry about the stability of our supply chain if this carries on.”

Details of the proposed deal from Mr. Simpson would be publicly released if the two sides agreed to a settlement.

The ILWU’s two-year proposal would include a wage raise of 11 per cent in the first year and 6 per cent in the second year, as well as an $8,000 signing bonus as an “inflation adjustment allowance,” according to two sources familiar with the situation. The deal would result in a hike to the general base rate, which is $48.23 an hour for the day shift.

Besides cost-of-living wage increases, the ILWU has listed two other main concerns at the bargaining table: automation and contracting out.

The BCMEA’s four-year proposal includes wage increases of 5 per cent in the first year, 3.5 per cent in the second year, 3 per cent in the third year and 2.5 per cent in the fourth year.

The two sides disagree over how much more money should go into a retirement fund, currently with a payout of up to $81,250 for a new retiree with at least 25 years of credited service. The retirement payout is in addition to benefits and pension.

B.C. port strike affecting up to $775-million a day in trade, employers estimate

The previous five-year collective agreement expired on March 31. Attempts to reach a deal with the assistance of mediators at the bargaining table did not succeed, with the union and BCMEA accusing each other of being unreasonable.

The BCMEA, which represents 49 private-sector companies such as shipowners and terminal operators, warned that the economic impact has been widespread as the strike entered its 12th day on Wednesday.

Canfor Pulp Products Inc. said on Tuesday night that it will temporarily halt production on Thursday at its Northwood pulp mill in Prince George, B.C.

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

Bulk grain shipments have continued being exported overseas, in accordance with the Canada Labour Code.

Two coal-export terminals, one near the Vancouver suburb of Delta and the other near Prince Rupert, have kept operating because those employers have their own collective agreements.

“We hope for a swift and satisfactory resolution for all parties involved,” the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said Wednesday.

About 6,000 of the ILWU’s members are in the Vancouver region, 1,000 in the Prince Rupert area and the rest on Vancouver Island.

“Every hour our ports remain closed fuels inflation and raises prices for consumers and businesses,” said Bridgitte Anderson, chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT).

At a news conference on Wednesday, she unveiled a “port shutdown calculator” on a flat-screen TV that displays an electronic tally of the value of trade disrupted, rising each second. The calculator showed that more than $8.9-billion of cargo had been affected as of midday.

“As the strike continues, the economic impact will grow substantially due to plant shutdowns, a lack of inventory affecting sales or production, and myriad other impacts on the British Columbian and Canadian economy,” GVBOT said in a news release.

Ms. Anderson appeared at the news conference with representatives from the BC Council of Forest Industries, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Mining Association of British Columbia and BC Chamber of Commerce.

“While we view the direct impact of the strike itself on the terminals as temporary to container terminal operators, it adds to the post-pandemic challenges in the sector,” credit rating agency DBRS Morningstar warned in a research note on Wednesday.

Union officials say the employers made massive profits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five major shipping companies reaped US$103.3-billion in profit last year, compared with US$6.2-billion in 2019, before the pandemic, the Centre for Future Work said in a report commissioned by the ILWU.

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