Truckers’ strike at Vancouver continues

Vancouver | Reuters –– A two-and-a-half week container truck driver strike at Port Metro Vancouver was set to continue Monday after a government and port authority plan to end the job action at Canada’s largest port failed to make headway on the weekend.

The 14-point plan, revealed late Thursday by the federal and B.C. governments and the port authority, set out to address the concerns of the striking drivers on fair pay, reduced wait times at container facilities and the creation of an industry oversight committee. [Related story]

It also called for the striking drivers, who include unionized and independent truckers, to return to work immediately, ending a strike that has crippled operations and delayed the transport of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods.

Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director for Unifor, the union that represents about 400 container truck drivers, said it had responded to the 14-point plan with some questions but that it had been told it would get no answers until truckers returned to work.

Truckers were told by representatives of the port and government to “to take it or leave it,” said Manny Dosange, spokesman for the United Trucking Association, which speaks for the independent drivers.

“Our members are not prepared to (do) that,” Dosange said in an interview.

Hundreds of non-union drivers parked their rigs on Feb. 26 in protest over services and pay at the city’s port facilities. Unionized workers voted to join the strike just days later and officially walked off the job early this week.

The work action has crippled operations at Port Metro Vancouver’s container terminals, slowing the transport of commodities such as lumber, pulp products and specialized grains, along with household goods and construction materials.

Rising Asian demand for Canadian products has led to a boom at Port Metro Vancouver, which handled a record 135 million tonnes of cargo in 2013, including about 25 million tonnes of containerized material. It is Canada’s largest and busiest port.

“The goal is simple, to get Port Metro Vancouver back to full operations,” port CEO Robin Silvester said in a statement Sunday.

He repeated that a continued refusal by some truckers to provide services “is likely to result in suspension or termination of their permits by Port Metro Vancouver.”

The federal government did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A representative for the B.C. government directed Reuters to Silvester’s statement.

Drivers say they are frustrated over increased wait times at the container terminals, which cut into their profits. They are paid by the load and do not make money while sitting in line waiting to load or unload cargo.

They are also demanding regulated and enforced pay rates, to help prevent trucking companies from undercutting one another.

— Reporting for Reuters by Nicole Mordant and Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto.

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