Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Metro Vancouver Threatens to Terminate Striking Truckers’ Permits

By Mark Edward Nero

Port Metro Vancouver, which has dealt with a strike by hundreds of drayage truck drivers for over a week now, is threatening to revoke truckers’ permits to operate at the port if they don’t return to work.
In a March 16 statement, port President and CEO Robin Silvester urged the truckers to immediately get back to the job, and touted a plan the port facilitated by both Transport Canada and British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure that was released last week. The plan addressed pay rates and wait times, two of the issues that caused the striking truckers to walk off the job.

“We are ready to move ahead with the 14-point joint action plan released on Thursday, March 13,” Silvester said. “It addresses concerns raised by truckers in areas such as compensation and wait times and is a means to get port operations back to normal.”

However, the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, the union representing the striking drivers, says the joint action plan, which includes such broadly-worded provisions as assessing wage and fuel surcharge rates by mid-2015 and restructuring the trucking licensing system and the additional rolling out of GPS technology for trucks, does not meet the truckers’ concerns.

In the port’s statement, Silvester warned that truckers not returning to work within an unspecified time would be at risk of losing their licenses to operate at the port.

“The efficient movement of marine containers through Port Metro Vancouver is critical to Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway and Canada’s economy,” Silvester said. “Truckers have Port Metro Vancouver-issued permits that allow them, through trucking companies, to provide service to terminals at the port. A continued refusal by some truckers to provide such service is likely to result in suspension or termination of their permits by Port Metro Vancouver.”

Picket lines were set up at nine locations around the port on March 10 as a result of a vote earlier in the month by Unifor to authorize a strike. The roughly 400 union truckers joined with several hundred members of the non-union United Truckers Association of British Columbia, which began a work stoppage and set up a blockade at Port Metro Vancouver on Feb. 26 in protest of long wait times at port terminals.

Vince Ready, a mediator appointed by Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, has thus far been unable to hammer out an agreement between the various parties.

An estimated 90 percent of truck traffic has been halted, according to the port. The economic impact of truckers walking off the job, Silvester said, is about $885 million per week.