The struggle to save jobs in the maritime sector and to protect Canada’s coasts and waters will be in the forefront on Jan. 12, when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, the International Longshore Association and the Seafarers International Union join forces for a National Day of Action. Rallies are taking place in Vancouver, Victoria, Prince Rupert, Montreal and Toronto to raise awareness of some crucial issues.
The federal Liberal government is out to dismantle “cabotage” – the legal guarantees that ensure maritime work remains in the hands of trained and dedicated Canadian workers. The unions are condemning the government’s intention to adopt the Emerson Report on the Canadian Transportation Act, which calls to dismantle the safety net of regulations which require people and goods moving between two Canadian locations to be transported by Canadian companies, equipment and workers.
The Emerson Report recommendations threaten 12,000 well-paying maritime jobs – all those who work aboard ships, tugs, ferries, barges and dredges. The underlying aim is to drive down pay and benefits, for the interests of bosses who prefer to hire foreign seafarers for as little as $1.26 per hour. Smashing the labour unions in this industry would not help these foreign workers; it would slash the incomes and working conditions of every employee in the industry.
And there are other dangers looming, including the potential to privatize Canada’s ports, with billions of dollars of public infrastructure; and the environmental threat posed by hiring inexperienced sailors, unfamiliar with Canada’s coastal waters, to pilot vessels containing a wide range of fuels, chemicals and other cargoes.
We urge readers to stand with ILWU, the ILA and the SIU in this important struggle. Contact the Prime Minister and all Liberal MPs to say: stop this assault on our jobs, our communities and our coasts.