Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Vancouver truckers to be ordered back to work

Unionized container truckers serving port terminals at Vancouver warn a negotiated settlement, not back-to-work legislation, will be the "only sustainable solution" to the current work stoppage. (Photo courtesy Port Metro Vancouver)

The British Columbia government is set to legislate unionized container truckers serving Port Metro Vancouver back into the cab.

The province said Wednesday it would introduce back-to-work legislation as early as Monday (March 24), with a 90-day cooling-off period, for 250 truckers represented by Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers Association.

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

Port Metro Vancouver (PMV), meanwhile, will begin reform of its licensing system, as mapped out in the 14-point federal/provincial/port “action plan” proposed late March 13 to resume port truck movement. [Related story]

The port authority, in a separate statement Wednesday, said it would begin an “acceleration” of the licensing reform and have a new system in place in June.

Under the reform plan, PMV said Wednesday, it “will not be renewing licenses or permits in the current system that are soon to expire.”

The port said about 100 to 150 of those with licenses and permits that expire at the end of March and the end of April would be informed Wednesday that their truck licensing system (TLS) licenses or permits “will not be renewed.”

“We expect everyone with a license or permit to be at work tomorrow,” PMV CEO Robin Silvester said. “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 “is Canada’s largest and busiest port, and this disruption is having a severe effect on our economy,” federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in a government release Wednesday.

About 2,000 Port-licensed trucks service the port, moving cargo containers throughout the Lower Mainland. Bulk bagged crops are among the goods transloaded using containers for export from the West Coast.

“The truckers working at the port have had a number of days to look at the 14-point action plan and I encourage them to go back to work, so we can start to implement the actions as soon as possible,” Raitt said.

The union retorted Wednesday that the province’s “refusal to negotiate” and planned legislation “will only make matters worse.”

Provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone “can’t expect to stick his head in the sand and make this go away,” Unifor-VCTA president Paul Johal said in a union release. “A negotiated settlement is the only sustainable solution.”

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.

The UTA, on its Facebook page, said Saturday both it and Unifor-VCTA had replied to the 14-point plan with a “conditional counter-offer” and would continue their job action while waiting on the port authority to “reply back.”

“Can’t be done”

The province, Ottawa and the port said Wednesday they are “committed to implementing” the 14-point Action Plan with Ready’s help, once work resumes.

The plan is meant to ensure truck drivers are paid “fair” compensation and pledges “quick implementation” of pilot measures to help reduce wait times at container terminals and creation of an “industry oversight” committee, the province said.

“I’m confident that the 14-point action plan that has been put in place is the right approach to resolving the issues raised by truckers,” Stone said in Wednesday’s release.

“It’s imperative that (truckers) respond to the plan with an end to the work stoppage, so that both they and the port can get back to work.”

“Stripping workers of their right to negotiate fair working conditions is not leadership,” Jerry Dias, Unifor’s national president, said in the union’s release.

“We’re actively seeking a resolution that works for everyone, but that can’t be done if the minister doesn’t take workers’ rights seriously.” — Network

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