Temporary security exemption stops port shutdown
Vancouver longshore unions challenge federal waterfront security clearance program
[Business in Vancouver; Dec. 11-17th issue]
Port of Vancouver terminal operators narrowly avoided another work disruption this weekend after a Transport Canada exemption delayed implementation of the Marine Transportation Security Clearance Program.
The program’s first phase, which was scheduled to come into effect December 15, requires terminal employees to have Transport Canada security clearance to enter restricted areas. (See “Federal government pumps millions into B.C. port security” – BIV 891; November 21-27, 2006.)
The security clearance will require:
•workers to undergo a criminal record check;
•a check of the relevant files of law enforcement agencies;
•a CSIS indices check and, if necessary, a CSIS security assessment;
•a check of an applicant’s immigration and citizenship status.
But thus far, International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) locals, which represent more than 5,000 workers at the Port of Vancouver, have refused to participate in the security clearance application process. They have instead launched a constitutional challenge to the legislation in B.C. Supreme Court.
The temporary exemption order, which was issued late on November 30, is set to expire February 20, 2008.
Anne McMullin, the Vancouver Port Authority’s director of corporate communications, said the exemption was provided to allow for outstanding issues to be settled.
The two primary challenges include:
•The ILWU locals refused to complete security applications for workers with access to restricted areas within container and cruise facilities in the ports of Vancouver and Fraser River. The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), which represents waterfront employers, subsequently applied to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) on November 27 seeking a declaration that the refusal amounts to an illegal strike.
A CIRB determination has yet to be made.
•ILWU Local 514, which represents ship and dock foremen, along with foremen Don Brown and Gary Purewal, fi led an October 24 statement of claim in B.C.
Supreme Court against the federal attorney general. It alleges that sections of the Marine Transportation Security Regulations “are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, give rise to differential treatment on the basis of marital and family status and restrict rights of individuals required to obtain security clearance to associate with various organizations and groups for social, cultural, political, religious and ideological reasons.”
BCMEA president Andy Smith said the attorney general has deferred to the Federal Court of Appeal for a determination on the constitutionality question. He added that because both challenges need to be resolved and more time was required, an exemption was granted.
He confirmed that an interim amended security program will be instituted by terminal operators during the exemption period.
“As far as the security clearances themselves, close to 1,200 of our employees, mostly outside of the ILWU, have been processed,” said Smith.
Metro Vancouver dockworkers are the only group to have challenged the regulations. The ports of Montreal, Halifax and the control centres of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. are scheduled to adopt the regulations according to schedule.
Port operations in Prince Rupert and Victoria are scheduled to implement them on December 15, 2008.
“As far as I know, there’s nowhere else in North America where there is an issue,” said Smith.
He added that a similar program is underway in the U.S., where, he believes, it has the support of the ILWU and the International Longshoremen’s Association.
When contacted by BIV, ILWU Local 514 president Frank Scigliano said he had no idea about any legal action before the courts.
“But if you got a story, you must have a story,” he said before hanging up. •
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