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B.C. introduces back-to-work law for port truckers

Legislation to buy Port Metro Vancouver 90 days of labour peace with its unionized container truckers has gone through first reading in British Columbia’s legislature.

Provincial Labour Minister Shirley Bond on Monday introduced Bill 25, the Port Metro Vancouver Container Trucking Services Continuation Act, imposing a 90-day “cooling-off” period for 250 striking container truckers represented by Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers Association.

The province on Monday described the legislation as “a reasonable step to get Unifor truckers back on the job, give them time to work toward a solution at the bargaining table, and allow (appointed mediator) Vince Ready to begin working to help the parties resolve their issues.”

The legislation, if need be, also allows Bond to extend the cooling-off period for up to 60 further days, the province said.

The new law, which the province telegraphed last week, “is being tabled reluctantly and comes after multiple attempts over recent weeks to end the dispute and get Port Metro Vancouver back to full capacity,” Bond said in a release. [Related story]

The legislation applies only to “legally striking” unionized Unifor-VCTA drivers serving PMV, the province said.

Any employee who contravenes the cooling-off legislation would be subject to a fine of up to $400 per day under the legislation. If Unifor-VCTA or an employer defies the cooling-off legislation, that party would be subject to a fine of “not less than $10,000 per day.”

Work stoppage at the port involves both Unifor-VCTA-led truckers — whose members walked on March 8 upon rejecting a deal brokered by mediator Vince Ready — and non-union United Truckers Association (UTA), who have been off the job since Feb. 26.

Major issues for Unifor-VCTA in this dispute include long lineups and costly wait times at port, and claims that rates to which truckers agreed in previous contract negotiations were not being honoured due to undercutting. Unifor-VCTA’s last collective agreement expired in June 2012.

PMV, meanwhile, said last week it plans to begin “acceleration” of reforms to its licensing system, as mapped out in the 14-point federal/provincial/port “action plan” proposed March 13 to resume port truck movement. [Related story]

PMV said it plans to have a new system in place in June and, in the meantime, “will not be renewing licenses or permits in the current system that are soon to expire.”

“I cannot imagine why we would issue future licenses or permits under the new licensing system to truck drivers who are not at work tomorrow,” PMV CEO Robin Silvester said March 19.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair last week called it “outrageous that governments are willing to destroy the livelihoods of these drivers by banning them from working at the Port forever. Truckers are simply standing up, legally, for the right to make a decent living.”

The federation urged PMV instead to “sit down with Unifor and negotiate a new collective agreement,” and to “pay truckers properly, provide real enforcement of the rates and ensure waiting times are kept to a minimum.” — Network


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