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Governments, Vancouver port propose measures to restart trucking

A package of measures drafted late Thursday by federal, provincial and port officials to end the trucking dispute at Port Metro Vancouver awaits a response from container truckers who’ve been off the job for up to two weeks.

A 14-point “action plan” has been collectively agreed upon to restart “normal” marine container operations at Canada’s largest port, the federal government said in a release late Thursday.

“It is time to get the port working once again and we expect the trucking industry to do their part and immediately return to work,” Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in a release.

The work stoppage involves both the Unifor-represented Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, whose members last weekend rejected a deal brokered by Ready, and the non-union United Truckers Association, who have been off the job since Feb. 26.

Major issues for Unifor-VCTA 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 under-cutting. Unifor-VCTA’s last collective agreement expired in June 2012.

No official response has yet come from either of the trucker organizations involved in the work stoppage. CBC Vancouver on Friday quoted Unifor as saying it received the proposals at the same time as they were publicly released and is reviewing them. CBC quoted a UTA spokesman in the same piece as saying the group had not yet been officially informed of the proposals but would consider them.

“I am confident that the joint action plan that has been put in place today will allow the truckers to return to work and the port to return to normal operations immediately,” B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone said Thursday in the government’s release.

The plan, the federal government said, “will help ensure truck drivers are paid fair compensation” and proposes “rapid implementation of pilot measures to help reduce wait times at container terminals, and the creation of an industry oversight committee.”

Also, to address “industry instability” and concerns about undercutting agreed rates, the plan calls for Port Metro Vancouver to restructure its truck licensing system.

The port’s agreement follows “months of consultation” between industry, trucking companies and federal and provincial governments, and has benefited from the work of appointed mediator Vince Ready and his discussions with truck operators, the government said.

Port officials, the government said, will consult with trucking industry stakeholders toward having a new licensing system in place by June 15.

The goal of the new licensing system, officials said, will be to create a “more stable trucking industry.” Proposed initial steps would include “greater accountability” on trucking companies to comply with rate and employment agreements; new licence charges on trucking companies to fund the new system and an “enhanced” compliance regime; a security deposit or bonding program for trucking companies, and new controls over the total number of licensed trucks to avoid a surplus.

“The work stoppage of the last two weeks has resulted in severe impacts on the national economy, and with the immediate implementation of the 14-point action plan we expect an immediate and full return to work by truck drivers,” the government said in its release.

Among its proposals, the “action plan” commits the province to increase audits and to ensure fuel surcharges are paid to drivers as per current federal regulations.

Port terminals and Port Metro Vancouver have also pledged to set up an extended-hours pilot project by the end of this month to be “responsive to volume forecasts.”

Effective immediately under the proposed plan, the port’s terminal gate compliance fee is to be waived when “excessive delays” are encountered at a terminal.

The plan also proposes a new flat fee of $25 per trip if a driver is at a scheduled location at Port Metro Vancouver container terminals but isn’t provided with the agreed-upon container within two hours of his or her scheduled pickup time. — AGCanada.com Network

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