Dock workers from the ITF-affiliated International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been locked out of their jobs at the Port of Vancouver in Washington, USA by their employer, Japanese conglomerate Mitsui.
Members of ILWU Local 4 have been working to reach a fair agreement with their multinational grain terminal employers for several months after the Grain Handlers’ collective bargaining agreement with the union expired in September last year. But in the early hours of 27 February around 200 workers at Vancouver were locked out.
Mitsui’s United Grain Corp has accused a single union worker of damaging equipment, an allegation which the union believes is being used to justify the aggressive lockout of its entire Local 4 represented work force.
In response to the lockout the ILWU has issued a statement saying: “Mitsui-United Grain has fabricated a story as an excuse to do what they’ve wanted to do all along, which is to lock workers out instead of reach a fair agreement with them.”
ITF president and chair of the dockers’ section Paddy Crumlin said: “This is pure aggression from the employer when what’s actually needed is transparency and good faith negotiation. Concerns about the conduct of employees or health and safety should be brought to the negotiating table not used to punish workers on the ground."
He continued: "These men and women are looking to negotiate contracts which don’t undermine American working standards and let them achieve decent standards of living for their families and because of that they’re treated like criminals.”
Since the CBA expiration in September the ILWU has reached deals or temporary contracts with all employers, including TEMCO, of all the member-elevators of the Grain Handlers’ Association, only Mitsui’s United Grain has locked out its employees.