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Update–Container truck strike averted as agreement reached

Non-union container truckers walked off the job last week over long wait times and low pay. A strike deadline for unionized truckers looms on Thursday, March 6, at noon. - Adrian MacNair photo
Non-union container truckers walked off the job last week over long wait times and low pay. A strike deadline for unionized truckers looms on Thursday, March 6, at noon.
— image credit: Adrian MacNair photo

Unionized container truck drivers who service the Port of Metro Vancouver have come to an agreement following discussions with mediator Vince Ready that will avert a strike.

The high-level meetings took place with members of the federal and provincial governments and Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA) truck drivers in downtown Vancouver.

In a statement issued by Unifor on Thursday morning, the union lauded the successful lobbying of bringing Ready to the table to guide negotiations. Following a full day of discussions, a representative from Unifor said the union will bring the agreement back to workers on Saturday for a vote they hope will resolve the truck drivers’ long-standing concerns.

Unifor-VCTA’s collective agreement expired in June 2012. During that time, the union has been raising concerns that long line-ups and wait times at Port Metro Vancouver terminals are costing truck drivers money. They are demanding increased rates of pay at the bargaining table and they want the rates standardized and enforced across the sector to put an end to under-cutting.

In consultation with shippers, truckers and industry members, Port Metro Vancouver also announced it has agreed in principle to an eight-point proposal provided by the non-unionized BC Trucking Association that would extend operating hours, change how fees are charged and conduct audits of trucking companies.

The non-unionized United Truckers Association drivers, however, will continue picketing. They walked off the job on Feb. 26, leading to Unifor-VCTA to threaten similar job action.

Tensions between truckers and companies servicing the port reached a boiling point this week when on Monday a rock was thrown through a truck window as it drove on the South Fraser Perimeter Road. A few days earlier video surveillance collected by the Port showed what appears to be somebody cutting the brake line to a truck on Port property.

Port Metro Vancouver says the current disruption at the port is having a serious impact on the free flow of goods through the Vancouver Gateway and that truck operations at Port Metro Vancouver container terminals are running at roughly 15 per cent of normal operations.

Vince Ready was appointed by federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt, who issued a statement Thursday indicating Ready and Corinn Bell will conduct a detailed review of the Port Metro Vancouver trucking industry and provide recommendations to the provincial and federal governments by May 30.

“We look forward to receiving Mr. Ready’s recommendations on enhancing supply chain reliability and labour stability in Port Metro Vancouver’s trucking industry," she said.

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, handling an estimated 135 million tonnes of cargo in 2013. Approximately 2,000 Port Metro Vancouver licensed trucks service the port, moving 1.3 million 20-foot equivalent containers throughout the Lower Mainland.The value of those goods is worth an estimated $46 billion or roughly $885 million per week.

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