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UPDATED–Container truckers strike vote passes by 100 per cent
Unionized container truckers served a 72-hour strike notice to employers on Monday, meaning truckers making deliveries to Deltaport, Vanterm, and Fraser Surrey Docks could walk off the job by Thursday at noon
Members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA) voted unanimously in favour of taking strike action on Saturday, citing a lack of progress at the bargaining table with employers.
“Our members have sent a very clear message: enough is enough,” said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-VCTA.
The union's collective agreement expired in June 2012, and since that time has been raising concerns that long line-ups and wait times at ports are costing truck drivers money. It is demanding increased rates of pay at the bargaining table and wants the rates standardized and enforced across the sector to put an end to under-cutting.
Unifor is also calling on the federal and provincial governments and the ports to appoint mediator Vince Ready to review the situation and make recommendations to solve the long-standing issues.
Ready was appointed mediator to the 2005 work stoppage and managed to come to a solution that involved giving truckers higher rates for delivery. But truckers say that rates haven't been changed since that time and with wait times taking hours, they want better compensation.
The port authority for all three terminals, Port Metro Vancouver, said it is working quickly to find a solution to the problem.
"The Port is doing everything it can in conjunction with the federal and provincial governments to get the port up and running at full operation," said Robyn Corasanti, director of public affairs.
"There's nothing we can do about the labour aspect and the wage aspect, but where we can have influence is on port operations and the efficiency of operations in reducing wait times and that sort of thing."
If truckers do go on strike, Corasanti said the Port will ensure that those truckers who want to get through and make their deliveries are still able to do so.
Last week, Port Metro Vancouver issued a press release blaming extreme weather conditions for the delays at ports, and that it has had an enormous impact on the movement of goods, affecting railways and terminal operators.
It also accused protesting truckers of turning to violence and sabotage to apply more pressure on the port.
"There are now allegations and evidence some protesters are disrupting port operations, including violence, intimidation and sabotage of trucks and property," the port authority said in an emailed statement.
"These individuals will be identified and their licences to access port property will be terminated."
The B.C. Trucking Association, which represents trucking companies, said the actions of protesting truckers is making hostages of the port, its customers and others who serve them.
BCTA president Louise Yako said brake lines were cut on two trucks that tried to load at terminals when they encountered protesting truckers who had previously promised a peaceful education campaign.
"Drivers are being approached by some of the so-called educators, things are being thrown at trucks, things are being said to the drivers," Yako said.
"There are reports of drivers being called at home and very strongly encouraged not to come to work."
She said she supports the port's decision to immediately and permanently terminate port access licences of those involved.
The Port says there are a number of infrastructure and operational initiatives in place that have been developed in collaboration with government and other Port stakeholders, including the United Truckers Assocation, that will soon improve wait times.
These improvements include a over overpass on the Roberts Bank causeway, which the Port claims will eliminate rail-truck conflict, and an overhaul of the current Truck Licensing System program and policy.
Last October, UTA members staged a rally at Port Metro Vancouver's downtown offices and sent a letter with several demands, including a one-hour turn-around time, that they be paid an hourly rate if they have to wait for over an hour, and that the Port stop granting temporary trucking licenses.
Unifor-VCTA was founded Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged. With more than 300,000 members, Unifor-VCTA is Canada’s largest union in the private sector.
–with files from Jeff Nagel