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Auto parts O/Os circulating petition for fuel surcharge

PICKERING, Ont. - A small unorganized group of owner/operators under contract with carriers to haul auto parts for General Motors of Canada Ltd. to its Oshawa plants is trying to get 1,000 names on a ...


PICKERING, Ont. – A small unorganized group of owner/operators under contract with carriers to haul auto parts for General Motors of Canada Ltd. to its Oshawa plants is trying to get 1,000 names on a petition they can take to GM, to try to pressure the automaker into paying a fuel surcharge.

The group of 24 drivers who met Dec. 27 wants O/Os to be paid a fuel surcharge of two cents for every five-cent increase in diesel prices above 47 cents per litre. That works out to a surcharge of about 10 cents based on the current national average diesel price.

According to weekly pump price survey data compiled by MJ Ervin and Associates, the national average diesel fuel price as of Jan. 7 was 71 cents per litre, one cent lower than the pump price in the Toronto area.

“We’re not sure how long it’s going to take to get the 1,000 names. The drivers are doing this on their own time,” says Peter Turner, a former owner/operator turned consultant who is working with the group of drivers.

The petition, which Turner has posted on his Web site at The Trucker’s Voice (thetruckersvoice.ca) for O/Os to print out and circulate, was the eventual result of a strategy meeting that facilitators were challenged to keep on topic.

Facilitators allowed Truck News to attend the meeting, but asked that no photographs of drivers at the meeting be taken because drivers are afraid of repercussions from carriers they are under contract to.

The group of mostly Polish-Canadian drivers met at the Pickering Husky truck stop on Clements Rd. to come up with a strategy for wrangling a fuel surcharge.

But throughout much of the meeting, drivers got caught up in ethnicity instead of focusing on developing a fuel-surcharge strategy.

They had expected a higher turnout of about 50 O/Os, and some frustrated drivers repeatedly questioned why there weren’t more “Canadian” drivers at the meeting, referring to the fact that most of the group at the meeting were Polish-Canadian.

“All of us are pretty disappointed that more people aren’t here,” Steve Solomon, an O/O who has hauled auto parts for the past four years, and co-facilitated the meeting along with Turner, told the drivers in attendance.

The group has depended mainly on word-of-mouth for getting people out to meetings.

Both facilitators had to keep reminding the group of O/Os that “we’re all Canadian here” and that they need to focus on the business issue of a fuel surcharge and show solidarity as a group of business people.

Other drivers kept suggesting that they should ask carriers for rate increases, but Solomon told them that’s not practical because they have all signed contracts agreeing to certain and differing rates.

Some of the drivers at the meeting weren’t sure whether they’d be able to get enough people to sign a petition, saying that O/Os in the Polish-Canadian community stick together and “don’t talk too much” to other drivers outside their ethnic community.

That prompted other drivers to chastize their compatriots for being narrow-minded and not focusing on the issue at hand.

Turner told them they need to talk to as many other O/Os as possible in order to reach their goal.”

Information is power and you have it, and if you don’t talk to other Canadian drivers, power is lost,” he said.

Solomon and Turner eventually got the drivers refocused on developing the petition and formulating their demand for a fuel surcharge.

With the objective of the meeting accomplished in the end, Turner and Solomon described it as more productive than two previous meetings in early December and November.

The call on Turner’s Web site for O/Os to sign the petition says “We need numbers – we need proof that those of you in this industry currently affected these [sic] high fuel prices support a move to be compensated for the current price of fuel.”

Turner says he is faxing the petition to truck stops across Ontario to assist the O/Os in their petition efforts.

The group of O/Os was planning to hold another meeting Jan. 26 at the Pickering Husky truck stop, and targeted that date for having 1,000 signatures.

They also were planning on having copies of the petition at the Jan. 26 meeting to sign, as a way to draw more O/Os out.

But the petition wasn’t ready for circulation until Jan. 12.

It was unknown at press time whether the group of O/Os will be able to collect 1,000 signatures in two weeks.

“They may very well have 1,000 names,” Turner said.

“We won’t see how GM will react until we get ourselves together,” Solomon told the drivers.

The initial objective is to get the group of O/Os thinking of themselves as business people with business issues that need to be addressed, Turner said.


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