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(Updates with union confirmation, background)
WINNIPEG, Manitoba/OTTAWA, May 30 (Reuters) - Longshore workers at Canada's biggest port, the Port of Vancouver, were locked out on Thursday in a labor dispute over technology changes, potentially grinding most shipping there to a halt.
Jim Thompson, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, said the lockout had started in at least some work sites at the port. He said talks between the union and the B.C. Maritime Employers Association were continuing.
At issue is the employers association's introduction of technology changes that could eliminate jobs, the union has said.
While most shipping would be affected, Canadian law requires workers to continue loading and unloading grain vessels during labor disputes. Cruise ships are also unaffected.
The port is a key gateway to Asia for Canadian goods, moving large volumes of coal, grain, potash and forest products.
The employers association, which represents 55 companies, such as ship owners and terminal operators at the port, issued a notice this week that it would lock out some 6,000 workers who load and unload ships due to a labor dispute.
The employers association and a spokeswoman for Canadian Labor Minister Patty Hajdu could not be immediately reached for comment. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler and Bill Berkrot)