Small businesses facing pinch from dock strike

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Small businesses facing pinch from dock strike

The ongoing dock strike on Canada's west coast is starting to pinch small businesses, experts say.

Striking International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada workers march to a rally as gantry cranes used to load and unload cargo containers from ships sit idle at port in Vancouver on Thursday, July 6, 2023. Canadian consumers aren't yet feeling the impact of the weeklong port strike in British Columbia, but businesses are beginning to be pinched by the shut down of docks that handle 25% of the country's foreign trade, experts said Friday.

The strike, which began July 1, by 7400 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, shut down more than 30 West Coast port sites.

Robin Guy, vice president and deputy leader of government relations at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the affected ports handle cargo worth more than 800 million Canadian dollars $600 million every day.

It affects us, it affects international people who are relying on Canadian goods to be delivered, he said.

Greg Wilson, the director of government relations for the Retail Council of Canada, said he didn't expect Canadian consumers to really see significant impacts for weeks. It's a different story for small businesses that operate with slim margins and are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

If you re a small retailer, if your products are stuck, wow are you annoyed, he said. Large retailers have more flexibility, he said: They have supply chain professionals who can work to divert containers to other ports.

Businesses that export products such as potash, fertilizer or forest goods are being squeezed, said Robert Kavcic, a senior economist at the Bank of Montreal.

The British Columbia Council of Forest Industries said Friday it urged the parties to resolve the walkout. The shutdown ships handle forest products exports worth about 15 billion Canadian dollars $11 billion annually, it said.

Businesses and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan have called on the federal government to end the strike. However, some are frustrated by the government's use of legislation in 2021 to end a walkout by Port of Montreal dock workers after only a day.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the best deals are reached at the bargaining table.

Earlier today, the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association, which represents employers in the strike, said it didn t think more bargaining would produce an agreement.