Strike One: Truckers Reject Vancouver Port Deal

VANCOUVER, BC — Unionized truck drivers are walking the picket line at Port Metro Vancouver this Monday after Unifor members voted overwhelmingly to reject a deal made late last week.

On Saturday, Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association voted on a tentative deal made by labor mediator Vince Ready, but decided the deal was “too little too late”. Monday, they join thousands of non-union drivers who are already off the job.

Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director of the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association’s, said 98 percent of over 300 unionized members voted to reject the tentative return-to-work agreement.

“The immediate economics of the situation for our members is just intolerable. That’s why they gave us the result they did today,” he told the CBC.

“This will have an immediate impact on the ports because there won’t be a lot of container truck traffic moving — this is almost 50 per cent of the traffic,” McGarrigle said.

Container truckers at the port walked off the job late last month to protest what they saw as unfair shipping practices such as long lineups and wait times at the port’s facilities.

The union is demanding increased pay rates, standardized and enforced across the trucking sector to end under-cutting and says the average pay rate for Port Metro Vancouver’s container truckers is $15.59 an hour, versus $23 an hour, which is the average rate of pay in the B.C. trucking industry.

Union members had voted to strike on March 1 and were ready to walk off the job at noon Thursday, but agreed to discuss their issues after Ready was appointed by federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

About $885-million worth of cargo moves through the port every week, or about $46 billion a year, Raitt’s office said Thursday in a statement on the dispute.

Legal action 

Meanwhile, the port is suing the United Truckers Association, which represents at least 1,000 non-union truckers, over damage caused by what it calls disruptive protesting and property destruction.

The port says some protesters have cut the breaks on some trucks and harassed truckers who chose to continue working.  

“It’s [was] getting really ugly out there,” said Louise Yako, president and CEO of the BC Trucking Association (BCTA). “I’ve had reports from members who have had trucks out on the road … being pursued by people in cars, surrounding the trucks, yelling at the driver, trying to convince the driver to go back to their terminal and not work. I know that people are being called at home and being told solidarity is required and they shouldn’t report to work.” 

“Port Metro Vancouver does not and will never condone illegal conduct such as harassment, uttering threats, property damage and assault by individuals or members of organizations that tacitly or actively encourage such activities,” the port stated. 

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