ILWU: Automation of BC Terminals to Cause Major Job Cuts

Container TerminalIllustration; Source: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

Automation of British Columbia container terminals could lead to a loss of thousands of jobs, according to a report commissioned by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada.

The study found that automation is likely to eliminate more than 9,200 marine terminal jobs across BC, taking into account new employment automation may create.

“Like many other sectors, automation is sweeping the marine industry world-wide with steep declines in employment of up to 90%. It’s only a matter of time before such automation happens here too,” Rob Ashton, President of the ILWU Canada, said.

“Disruption on this scale will be felt by the provincial economy and will have an acute effect in some local communities, particularly those that rely on this industry for good jobs and the economic benefits they bring locally,” John O’Grady, founding partner of PRISM Economics and Analysis, added.

ILWU noted that the provincial economy “stands to take a material hit from income lost in excess of CAD 600 million (USD 453.3 million) annually, with tax revenues declining more than CAD 100 million a year.”

The study forecasts that 11% of middle-income employment (CAD 70,000+ per year) and 23% of high-income employment (CAD 100,000+ per year) in the community of Delta alone risk being eliminated due to future automation in the marine terminal industry. In Prince Rupert, one quarter of middle-income and two-thirds of high-income employment is at risk of elimination.

“The companies that automate these jobs out of existence stand to benefit. It is equally clear that workers, communities and governments would be left to pick up the pieces after the damage is done,” said Rob Ashton.

To address job loss from automation in the marine terminal and other sectors of the economy, the ILWU Canada is calling on all federal party leaders to commit to modernize Canada’s approach to labour market adjustment.

The union is also calling on all governments “to stop rewarding companies with tax breaks and subsidies when they automate good middle-class jobs out of existence to their exclusive benefit.”

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