Port wars

by Jim Bray

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Port Metro Vancouver received a bit of a blow in federal court late last month as the legal body dismissed its motion for a declaration that the court has no jurisdiction in the case brought against it by truckers whose TLS (Truck Licensing System) applications to the port were denied.

That doesn’t end the case by any means, but it does give at least a temporary victory to the drivers. According to Gagan Singh, spokesperson for the United Truckers Association – many of whose members found themselves shut out after the port announced its new policies – the dismissal held good news for truckers because it keeps the process of getting redress going forward.

“The next step is that the judicial review will start either on the 20th or 23rd of March,” he told Truck West in a phone interview, “so once that’s started (the Port) will have to answer for why the companies didn’t get their licenses back.”

On the downside for truckers, Singh said the ruling also dismissed their motion for “interlocutory injunction extending for reinstating their licence and authorizations issued by PMV to allow them to access the port until the underlying judicial review application are determined.” That would have let the truckers get back into the port facilities until the process plays out, so as it sits they will have to twist in the wind – and continue losing income – until the final decision is made.

Singh thinks the fact that the judicial review has been scheduled for the near future is a good sign, however.

“The Judge must have seen some urgency in the situation, because he said that while a judicial review would normally take six months or more, he has granted it in three weeks.”

He said the review will look at both sides of the issue to hopefully get the situation cleared up in a fair manner. “They will find out which is true and the port will have to answer all the points our group has brought up,” he said.

Port Metro Vancouver announced in early February which trucking companies would be approved to service its Lower Mainland facility, a move that left many truckers on the outside looking in. Some truckers have organized demonstrations and protests since then, as well as launching the current legal action aimed at restoring their port privileges.   

Peter Xotta, vice-president of planning and operations for Port Metro Vancouver, said in an early February statement that the TLS is part of a Joint Action Plan that was agreed to last year by the driver representatives and the governments, both provincially and federally. He said the reforms included reducing the number of trucks approved to service the terminals because “there were previously too many trucks for the amount of available work,” and he claimed the change was requested by “drivers, trucking companies and others during extensive consultation done in the fall because drivers stated they could not get enough work to make a decent living.”

Singh said the truckers are looking not only to get back to business serving the port, but also for back pay for the time they’ve missed.

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