The British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) is a multi-employer waterfront organization, representing 57 ship owners and agents, stevedores, container, bulk and break bulk terminal operators on Canada’s west coast, extending from Victoria north to the Alaska border. A key objective of the BCMEA is to meet the needs of its membership. The BCMEA is dedicated to understanding and being responsive to the shared needs of its members and to the unique circumstances each BCMEA member may have. With this commitment to customer service, the BCMEA provides information, expertise and systems that improve the operational effectiveness of BCMEA members.
The BCMEA and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have shared responsibilities for training and recruitment of the waterfront workforce. Depending on the port location, daily dispatch of labour is either a responsibility of the BCMEA or the ILWU. A positive relationship with the ILWU is essential to the success of this commitment. With that in mind, the BCMEA strives to work cooperatively with representatives of various union locals and the Canadian Area, to ensure that a sufficient and qualified workforce is available to meet the needs of BCMEA members.
The Longshore Industry in British Columbia is unusual in that longshore workers typically do not report to the same employer or work site each day. The longshore industry, unlike most federally regulated industries, operates almost exclusively on the basis of a daily dispatched, casual workforce. Workers determine whether to signify their availability to work on a particular shift. Available workers are dispatched to a particular employer work site for a shift using a system based on qualifications and seniority. There are three shifts per day (day, night and graveyard) and the waterfront operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The workers are required to signify availability for any or all of the shifts if they are ready and able to work. If there is insufficient work, some workers who registered their availability to work will not be dispatched to work.
This employment model is necessitated by the inconsistent and varied arrival and departure of ships in port and the availability of cargo and the multiple employers that provide long shoring work on the B.C. waterfront. The model allows workers to gain access to work from multiple employers. Although the BCMEA is not the actual employer of longshore workers, it is certified as the employer representative for collective bargaining and for employment equity purposes. Put another way, the BCMEA recruits, trains, dispatches and pays the waterfront workforce but is not the employer.
The BCMEA is proud of its history of community inclusion in its hiring processes. In March 2012, the Canadian Human Rights Commission identified the BCMEA as an employment equity leader with better overall employment equity results in comparison with others in the water transportation industry. The Commission stated that the employment equity results for the BCMEA were above expectations with respect to Aboriginal peoples and members of visible minorities. Aboriginals represent 8% and visible minorities make up 24% of the overall workforce. A significant increase in hiring longshore workers in 2012 and 2013, 900+ new longshore workers, resulted in an increase in the representation of women, approximately 30% and to a much lesser extent to persons with disabilities. These achievements affirm the BCMEA and the ILWU are committed to diversity in the waterfront industry and will continue to work at creating a workforce that is reflective of the Canadian society we live in.