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Delta trucker hit by rock as labour dispute boils over

A war of words over wages and wait times at Deltaport has escalated into violence, as a Delta trucker was struck and injured by a rock while driving on the South Fraser Perimeter Road on Monday.

It was 2:30 a.m. and a convoy of six trucks and three vehicles belonging to Aheer Transportation was headed to Deltaport when a large rock shattered the driver's side window of one truck and hit the driver in the head.

"We are absolutely shocked about what kind of damage this could have done had the driver been knocked out with that rock," said owner Shinda Aheer, who was driving next to the trucker. "Definitely it would have been disastrous."

He said the trucks didn't slow down or stop after the incident, fearing for their safety along the dark stretch of highway. In fact, he had set out at those unusual hours in order to ensure his drivers and vehicles would be safe.

Allegations of brake tampering and intimidation has surfaced since container truckers reached an impasse with their employers and Port Metro Vancouver last week over wait times and wages. Since then, Aheer said non-unionized members of the United Truckers Association has been picketing outside his gates.

"I don't have ships coming into my yard," he said. "Why are these non-union guys blocking my yard and threatening people?"

Ian Boyko, a communications representative for Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association (VCTA), denounced the allegations of violence on Tuesday afternoon.

"We're in favour of peaceful, non-violent protest, and we think there's plenty of options for members and non-members to express their frustration with the Port and the employers," he said.

But Boyko said employers and Port Metro Vancouver are "making a lot of noise about isolated incidents" to distract from the important issues.

"We're trying to make the issue about getting our members fair wages and fixing problems with lineups at the Port and they're probably a bit more interested in changing the channel," he said.

Boyko added the union is hopeful that the provincial or federal governments will intervene before truckers officially walk off the job on Thursday at noon. Unifor-VCTA has called on mediator Vince Ready to be appointed to bring a resolution to the impasse.

The incident comes days after Port Metro Vancouver surveillance video captured what appears to be someone cutting a truck's brake line on port property. Both were reported to the B.C. Trucking Association, which has documented several other aggressive actions by protesters.

"Drivers are being approached by some of the so-called educators, things are being thrown at trucks, things are being said to the drivers," said BCTA president Louise Yako last week.

She said she supports the port's decision to immediately and permanently terminate port access licences of those involved.

Since the rock-throwing incident, Aheer has arranged for a security guard to ride with each trucking convoy that heads to Deltaport. That extra cost is only compounding big losses from the labour situation.

He said not only has it cost his business thousands of dollars a day, it's hurting the other businesses that rely on his shipments.

"I've had emails, concerns, and in fact one of the biggest exporters called me this morning and said they need product moved out," he said. "Their warehouse is full."

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