New Strike Avoided, Waters Choppy at Port Metro Vancouver

VANCOUVER, BC — Tensions are once again increasing at Port Metro Vancouver, but another damaging strike has so far been avoided.

A number of the port’s container truck drivers are upset that some trucking companies are not paying the wage hikes that the federal government mandated in March, Unifor’s Gavin McGarrigle told News 1130. Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union. 

Ottawa promised a 12-percent rate increase after a month-long strike that severely hurt Canada’s largest port earlier this year.

In March, both union and non-union drivers walked off the job, complaining of long wait times at the port’s four terminals and unfair wages.

Since then, the federal government announced $3 million in funding to the port to reduce wait times at terminals. The port and both provincial and federal governments have also budgeted $1.71 million to outfit the remainder of the port’s container truck fleet with GPS technology.

“GPS technology will help manage congestion and wait times,” said Robin Silvester, president and CEO, Port Metro Vancouver. “The completion of this program is an essential step in carrying out the Joint Action Plan, with the opportunity to transform the container trucking industry and make our port a world leader.”

Louise Yako, president of the British Columbia Trucking Association, said members are reporting fragmented accounts. 

Yako told the Journal of Commerce that checks covering the period from April 3 to May 31 have been mailed to the trucking companies and that the money is being distributed to drivers. 

The reason that some trucking companies are not paying the higher rates is in part confusion, Yako said. The government-set rate is a minimum rate and companies with unionized drivers could end up paying even more depending on negotiations with their unions.

Unifor’s McGarrigle told the Vancouver Sun that the first instalment payment of $214,000 to be distributed to drivers with about 10 companies has been made. 

In a joint statement on June 13, Lisa Raitt, federal Minister of Transport, and Todd Stone, British Columbia’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said: “A great deal has been accomplished over the past two months, such as increases to the rates to be paid to truckers. However, we remain very concerned about the consistent application of these rates and will not hesitate to take action to ensure compliance with the Joint Action Plan. As an immediate measure, the provincial audit program is being strengthened and targeted investigations are underway.”

McGarrigle said tensions among drivers have not yet reached the boiling point and they are trying to avoid another strike. 

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