Vancouver truckers reach agreement, return to work

A back-to-work rule making its way through the British Columbia legislature will be scrapped after container truckers serving Port Metro Vancouver reached an agreement Wednesday to end their work stoppage.

Unionized truckers, represented by Unifor, and non-union members of the United Truckers Association are to resume “full operations” at PMV on Thursday, the province said in a release.

The agreement was reached through “extensive discussions between all parties,” the province said, noting the “joint adoption” of a “refined” action plan to address truckers’ concerns.

Vince Ready, the federal government’s appointed mediator in the trucking dispute, has been retained to meet with all parties, including UTA and Unifor leaders, to act on the action plan within 90 days.

Unifor-represented truckers have operated without a collective agreement since June 2012, since which time the union said it’s been raising concerns over increasingly long lineups and wait times at the port and calling for increased rates of pay. Unifor has also called for standardized pay rates, enforced across the sector, to “put an end to under-cutting.”

“This is an agreement that working truckers can be satisfied with,” said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers Association, said Wednesday in a union release. “We were also in this position in 2005, so enforcement will be critical to keeping the ports open.”

UTA, on its Facebook page Wednesday night, announced a “back-to-work deal is done” but said the “fight is far from over,” and details would be discussed at a members’ meeting Thursday morning.

The agreement, Unifor said, followed “intense bargaining,” in which the involvement of B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s office “was important to breaking the impasse.”

“From the beginning, we knew that negotiation was the only want to end this dispute,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said. “And we have said throughout this, that we were willing and eager to negotiate around the clock. We understood the significance of the work stoppage.”

However, he said, “we are frustrated that federal Transportation Minister (Lisa) Raitt did not share this understanding. This work stoppage was protracted because of the unwillingness of Minister Raitt to participate in the necessary dialogue.”

“Appropriate measures”

Port Metro Vancouver, the province said Wednesday, will now rescind licence suspensions “where no criminal charges have been laid against any driver or operator by the police” and will also dismiss, without any legal costs, its legal action in the Federal Court against the UTA. PMV also agrees not to commence any further action against Unifor or UTA or its members stemming from any activities before “normal trucking operations” resume.

The federal government, meanwhile, commits to “appropriate measures” to increase trip rates for truckers by 12 per cent over rates agreed upon in 2006, effective within 30 days of the return to work on all moves of containers, whether full or empty, on a round-trip basis. A “temporary rate increment” will be put in place in the meantime.

A fuel surcharge multiplier will be amended from one per cent up to two per cent, resulting in a 14 per cent fuel surcharge “immediately upon a return to work” and payable to owner-operator drivers “without exception,” to be enforced through increased audits.

PMV, the province said, will also begin a consultation period with trucking industry stakeholders on restructuring of the port’s trucking licensing system, toward “initial” reforms taking place by June 15.

Port terminals and PMV will announce, “for rapid implementation,” an extended-hours pilot project by March 31, to be “responsive to volume forecasts.” Also, the port’s terminal gate compliance fee will now be waived when “excessive delays are encountered” at a terminal.

PMV, the province said, will also set up a mechanism to direct the port terminal gate efficiency fee (also known as the waiting time fee) to be paid to trucking companies, which in turn will be required to pass the fee on to independent owner-operators. — Network

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