Business

Port truckers dispute could erupt again

A strike by container truckers crippled port shipments four months ago but drivers say the deal that ended the dispute hasn
A strike by container truckers crippled port shipments four months ago but drivers say the deal that ended the dispute hasn't yet brought them the promised relief from rate undercutting.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Unionized container truckers say the province and Port Metro Vancouver haven't done enough to crack down on rate undercutting within their industry since a deal ended a 28-day strike this spring.

New minimum rates were supposed to be enforced – complaints would be investigated by the province and then the port could suspend or even ban offending companies from access to the container terminals.

Unifor spokesman Gavin McGarrigle said the province promised to enact legislation in the fall to do its part, but the union's members feel that may not come fast enough.

"It could erupt very quickly into another dispute," McGarrigle said of the simmering tensions.

Unionized drivers' jobs are at risk because their companies are losing work to cut-rate non-union trucking firms that don't abide by the minimum rates, he said.

"If we have a company with 50 trucks and all of a sudden 20 of us aren't going to be working because someone isn't playing by the terms of the action plan, are we suppposed to just sit and wait at home while the province has its summer vacation?"

He said minimum rates agreed in the strike settlement were to have been in effect within 30 days of the return to work in late March.

"Here we are 100-plus days out and they haven't taken the necessary measures to backstop the action plan to make it binding," McGarrigle said.

Port Metro Vancouver spokesman John Parker-Jervis said the port has set up a whistleblower line where container truckers can lodge complaints on matters from rate undercutting to excessive waits at port terminals.

The line has been in place four weeks and has received more than 100 complaints so far.

Parker-Jervis said there haven't been any licence suspensions yet but  a number of investigations are ongoing.

He said the port has made substantial progress on completing the Joint Action Plan that ended the strike.

The port doesn't directly employ truckers or control rates – unionized drivers have collective agreements with the firms they work for while non-union drivers have different rate structures with their employers.

Completed measures include the opening of terminals at night to reduce congestion and installation of GPS units in all trucks to improve efficiency and so drivers can be compensated for unreasonable waits.

A statement from Transportation Minister Todd Stone emailed by his staff said the province is working through the summer to complete the remaining commitments from the strike settlement and thanked truckers "for their patience and restraint."

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