Under Phase 1 of the Marine Transportation Security Clearance Program, due to take effect December 15, 2007, all International Longshore Warehouse Union employees entering certain areas or performing certain functions at Canadian ports would be required to possess a Transport Canada Security Clearance. The ILWU refused to participate in the security clearance application process and launched a constitutional challenge to the legislation.
To avoid any disruption in service, the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities authorized the director general, Marine Security to issue a temporary exemption effective until February 20, 2008 for the Ports of Vancouver and Fraser River. "During this period, terminal operators will continue to pursue all avenues to encourage specific workers to apply for the security clearance required for their positions," according to the port authority.
"Terminal operators will also be able to institute special interim security arrangements," it continued. The security clearances are required by workers accessing certain restricted areas within container and cruise facilities, the port authority explained. In response to the IWLU's refusal to complete security applications, the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) made application to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board
(CIRB) for a declaration that the refusal by these locals, which represent more than 5,000 workers at the Port of Vancouver, amounts to an illegal strike.
Talks between the port and IWLU locals 500, 502, 505, 508, and 519 broke down in October and the Minister of Labour for British Columbia then appointed a conciliator, which had 60 days to meet with both parties and prepare recommendations the Minister could take back to both sides. No strike or lockout can occur for 21 days of the Minister receiving the report from the conciliator, meaning that no labor disruption could occur before January 2008.
Subsequently, the Conciliation Officers and the parties signed off on an agreement to extend the conciliation time period until January 18, 2008.