Truck union set for strike vote unless port brings in mediator

Unionized container truckers could join this week’s work stoppage by non-union drivers.

Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, B.C.’s largest union representing container truckers, announced Wednesday afternoon that its will hold a strike vote on Saturday in solidarity with non-union drivers unless a mediator is brought in to help resolve the issues.

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On Wednesday morning, more than 1,000 non-unionized container truck drivers parked their rigs to protest long wait times and low rates at Port Metro Vancouver ports, including Deltaport and Vanterm, and Fraser Surrey Docks.

Protests began Wednesday morning at the gates of Vanterm facility near downtown Vancouver and at a truck pullout along Highway 91 just north of Highway 10.

The truckers insist their rigs won’t budge until the port meets a series of demands, including resolution of the ongoing issues of rates and delays.

“We’ve seen this story before, too many times. Truckers shut down the Vancouver ports in 1999 and 2005 because government and the ports wouldn’t listen,” said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, in a statement. “Container truckers are tired of lip-service and demand real changes and real solutions.”

United Truckers Association spokesperson Manny Dosange said workers can no longer afford to operate, and they want the port to drop its charges for late and missed pick-ups until a backlog is resolved.

Unifor called on the port and the provincial government to bring in well-known labour mediator Vince Ready to help find a solution.

“This morning’s protest is just the beginning,” said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-VCTA. “Truckers are prepared to escalate job action if the port and both levels of government don’t take our concerns seriously.”

Eric Waltz, president of TSI, which operates Deltaport and Vanterm, said containers were moving Wednesday, insisting it was business as usual.

“There is less traffic for sure, but we do have trucks coming through the gate and being serviced.”

Port Metro Vancouver says the dispute is between the truckers and their employers and that it won’t get in the middle. Peter Xotta, the port’s vice president of planning and operations noted that truckers’ woes have been exacerbated by a particularly harsh winter,

He said extreme weather conditions over the past two months in eastern and central North America have forced the need to shorten and slow trains so they could operate safely, while storms in the Pacific Ocean delayed ships leading to delays for truckers.

“Without container truck drivers doing their job, ports grind to a halt. They are vital to B.C. and Canada’s economy, but the government is taking them for granted,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s B.C. area director. “We’re taking action because our members are finding it harder and harder to make a living in the industry.”

-With files from the Vancouver Sun

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