Agribusiness giant Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (SWP) has confirmed that the British Columbia Terminal Elevator Operators Association (BCTEOA) issued a lockout notice to the Grain Workers Union (GWU) at midnight on Sunday.

The BCTEOA represents Vancouver-based grain terminals in collective bargaining with the GWU. SWP is a member of the BCTEOA, along with Agricore United, James Richardson International and Cargill. The lockout temporarily suspends operations at port terminals in Vancouver.

"The BCTEOA recognizes the need to increase the effectiveness of the grain handling industry in the face of increased competition, reduced grain volumes and a deregulated grain transportation system," Will Hill, senior VP, Grain Group said. "The association has repeatedly indicated a willingness to improve wages in exchange for more flexible work rules and increased productivity."

The last collective agreement expired 31 December 2000, and the parties have been in negotiations for the past 20 months.