VANCOUVER - Occupy protesters are planning to take action against Canada's largest port on Monday, but they're running into opposition from the labour unions they're trying to support.
Protesters argue port traffic doesn't benefit people equally and may hurt the environment, so they're planning to hang a protest banner at Port Metro Vancouver's Deltaport in the morning and a blockade at the port's New Brighton entrance in East Vancouver later in the day.
The protests are part of a larger West Coast action, which is supporting longshore workers and targeting port facilities in British Columbia and U.S. states between California and Alaska.
But the protest may not be shaping up the way organizers hoped.
Unions and labour organizations, like the British Columbia Federation of Labour, which represents about 50 affiliated unions and 550,000 members, say that while they may support the Occupy movement's greater objectives, they don't support the port protests.
"The BC Federation of Labour does not support this action, or any action by the Occupy Vancouver group at Vancouver area ports that seeks to prevent our members from carrying out their assigned duties and working safely," the federation said in a news release.
It noted that because the demonstration does not amount to a picket line, workers would show up for their jobs as usual on Monday.
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union, which represents port workers, is taking a similar stand.
A union representative was unavailable for comment Friday, but Steve Nasby, the first vice-president blogged: "The disruption of any of the ports in British Columbia under the jurisdiction of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union by any outside group, organization or individuals will not be condoned by the ILWU Canada officers or affiliates."
Port Metro Vancouver is Canada's largest. Its website said it trades about $75 billion in goods annually with more than 160 economies, generates some 129,500 jobs across Canada and $6.1 billion in wages and contributes about $10.5 billion to the country's gross domestic product.
The cool reception by B.C.'s labour leaders over the port demonstration plans may be the latest stumbling block for the B.C. group, part of a global movement taking a stand against corporate greed and social inequality.
In November, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered protesters to leave the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery, which they had occupied since the middle of October.
When they moved to a partially covered plaza outside the provincial law courts, Judge Anne MacKenzie ordered them to move again.
Occupy encampments in other Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton faced similar evictions.
Ports are targeted for the 12-hour action because protesters say they're standing in solidarity with U.S. longshore workers who are fighting a long and difficult battle for rights and wages.
A news release issued by Occupy Vancouver said the group believes the fate of U.S. longshore workers will soon be the same for Canadian longshore workers, noting the gap between the rich and poor in Canada is growing the fastest in B.C.
"Our ports are where the global economy opens its doors," the release said.
"But not everyone is invited to the party. We want to slam those doors shut for a day and send a resounding message."
Protesters say they are also concerned with the planned expansion of the Kinder Morgan Canada facility in Vancouver, which could increase the number of tankers carrying tar-sands oil to 288 vessels in 2016 from 22 vessels in 2005.
"We are calling out to every individual and organization that believes people should come before profits to join us in occupying the Port of Vancouver," the release said.
Peter Xotta, vice-president of planning and operations for Port Metro Vancouver, said he is monitoring the situation in Vancouver and at other West Coast ports. He won't say how the port plans to respond to the protests.
When asked if he has been in discussion with police, Xotta said only that he has been in contact with other agencies.
"It would be our objective to maintain operations at the port," he said. "We will absolutely, as I said, respect folks' right to peaceful protest and we'll take steps to minimize the impact of that on ongoing operations."
Xotta said the port and the union have developed a good working relationship.
"We've ended up most recently with an eight year