Labour talks at Canada ports said moving slowly

Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:38pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Talks aimed at averting a strike in January at Canada's Pacific Coast ports, are progressing very slowly, a representative of the employers said on Wednesday.

Unionized foremen on the docks in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, will be in a legal strike position as of January 2, but the union and employers are scheduled to meet with a mediator again on Friday.

British Columbia Maritime Employers Association spokesman Greg Vurdela declined to give details of the issues under negotiation, citing a news blackout agreement with the union, but said the talks have been going "very very slowly."

The employers remain optimistic an agreement can be reached, although some vessels have begun to divert to other ports out of concern over a possible labor stoppage, Vurdela said.

More than 400 workers represented by the International, Longshore and Warehouse Union have been without a contract since 2007. A union spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Vancouver is Canada's largest port by volume.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)