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Province introduces back-to-work law for Metro port truckers

File photo showing the loading of trucks with containers to haul out of Vancouver
File photo showing the loading of trucks with containers to haul out of Vancouver's Centerm terminal.
— image credit: Port Metro Vancouver

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond introduced back-to-work legislation today imposing a 90-day cooling off period in the Port Metro Vancouver truckers' strike.

The provincial legislation is expected to take effect Thursday, requiring the roughly 250 unionized truck drivers represented by Unifor to immediately return to their jobs.

Bond said federally appointed mediator Vince Ready is available to resume discussions immediately once truckers resume working.

"Introducing this legislation today is a necessary step in ensuring that future economic impacts are mitigated, and it comes after multiple attempts over the past weeks to end the dispute and to get Port Metro Vancouver back to full capacity," she said.

Bond called the cooling-off legislation the "least interventionist" of the options available.

The legislation provides stiff penalties for the union and its members if the strike continues.

Employees can be fined up to $400 a day, while the union would be fined a minimum of $10,000 per day, while union officers would be fined at least $2,500 per day.

Seven trucking firms are named as the employers of the unionized drivers – Aheer Transportation Ltd., Forward Transportation Ltd., Green Light Courier Ltd., Landway Transport, Port Transport Inc., Prudential Transportation Ltd., and Sunlover Holdings Co. Ltd.

The legislation directs the parties to resume good-faith bargaining within 72 hours of the legislation taking effect.

"We believe that a 90-day cooling-off period is a reasonable approach that will require the parties to return to the bargaining table," Bond said.

The province can extend the cooling off period by as much as 60 days.

Unifor B.C. director Gavin McGarrigle said the province's announcement last week of pending back-to-work legislation undermined negotiations, because some companies then refused to engage in talks.

He said some drivers have indicated they won't obey the legislation and are prepared to go to jail.

The dispute centres on rate undercutting within the industry and long unpaid waits to load containers.

NDP leader Adrian Dix told the legislature Monday that Port Metro Vancouver's threat to pull licences from 1,100 independent owner-operators is an unacceptable tactic.

The strike that began with non-union drivers Feb. 26 and broadened to unionized drivers March 10 is clogging the normal flow of goods via truck and has begun to result in layoffs in various trade-dependent industries.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

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