Thursday, March 27, 2014

Port Metro Vancouver, Truckers Reach Deal to End Strike

By Mark Edward Nero

Port Metro Vancouver and the hundreds of drayage truck drivers that haul goods to and from the port reached a deal on March 26 to end a strike launched March 10 by members of the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association.

The two sides, with the aid of a federal negotiator, have agreed to accept a revised version of a 14-point plan by the port that had been previously rejected by the truck drivers.

“We are pleased an agreement has been reached for moving forward with the 14-point action plan,” Port Metro Vancouver President & CEO Robin Silvester said in a statement. “The impacts of this ongoing dispute have been significant for Canadian families, businesses and our international customers.”

More that 1,000 non-union truckers also participated in the strike. They are represented by the non-profit 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.

Earlier this month, Unifor had stated that 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, did meet truckers’ concerns.

However, after rounds of negotiations, the sides came to an agreement, the details of which weren’t immediately available. The union previously said it wanted a wage increase and for fees for wait times to kick in after only one hour, rather than two, and for the fees to increase over time.

The agreement was reached about a week after the port had threatened to begin the process of revoking the licenses to operate at the port of striking truckers if they didn’t return to the job.

An estimated 90 percent of truck traffic was halted during the first several days of the strike, according to the port, although that number eventually dropped to about 60 percent. The economic impact of truckers walking off the job, Silvester said, was about $885 million per week.

“We anticipate it will take some time for our backlogs to clear before the port can return to normal operations,” Silvester said.