NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – It appears that labour unrest is going to continue at Port Metro Vancouver, after unionized truckers authorized a strike.
The truckers are members of the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA). According to a statement issued by VCTA, 100% of the drivers voted in favour of striking.
“Our members have sent a very clear message: enough is enough,” said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-VCTA.
As a result of the vote, the union can walk out after giving a 72-hour strike notice to employers. That means the earliest they can be off the job is noon (local time) on Thursday, March 6.
VCTA says its members vote to strike as they are frustrated by the lack of progress at the negotiating table. The collective agreement between Unifor-VCTA and the terminal operators at Port Metro expired in June 2012. Beyond not being able to come to an agreement on a new contract, drivers say they have concerns about long line-ups and wait times at the port. As part of their demands, they want increased pay and standardized (and enforced) rates to prevent under-cutting.
“Container truckers, like workers across this country, make the economy work,” said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor. “They deserve to be compensated fairly for their role in generating wealth, but if workers can’t share in that wealth, we’ll help shut that port down until they get it.”
Unifor has call upon port officials and members of the federal and provincial governments to appoint Vince Ready as mediator and allow him to review the situation and make recommendations for improvements.
Even discounting the strong possibility of a future strike, Port Metro Vancouver is still working to deal with the aftermath of the protest by the non-unionized members of the United Truckers Association last week.
According to the port, during that blockade and work stoppage, some protesters engaged in behavior it deemed to be dangerous and potentially illegal. In a statement, the port said the actions included “threats, intimidation and bodily harm towards those with legitimate right to carry on the business of Lower Mainland ports.”
As a result the port has promised to take action against those it says were involved. First it will suspend the port property access permits of any identified Truck Licensing System (TLS) holders who are identified as having contributed to the “adverse circumstances” by “threatening, intimidating, or coercing and/or disrupting, impeding or preventing access to port facilities.” At the time of the statement, port officials expected about 40 permits were going to be suspended.
The port will also lift the moratorium on Full Service Operator Licences that was imposed two weeks ago. The reasoning behind this decision is to “create the opportunity for trucking companies to add legitimate company trucks to their fleets and replace the capacity lost by any suspended permits.”