Truck movements remain snarled at Vancouver port strike enters sixth week

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VANCOUVER, B.C. The short-haul container truck strike at the Port of Vancouver entered its sixth week yesterday and movements remained snarled despite government attempts to implement a cooling off period.

Only a handful of trucks attempted to pick up containers at the port, according to a report from Reuters.

Port officials are trying to temporarily implement terms of a mediator’s plan to end the dispute between independent drivers and shipping brokers. The federal government gave the Vancouver Port Authority the legal power to implement the mediator’s recommendations for 90 days, beginning on Tuesday, using special licenses while a task force studied the rate system.

Reuters reported the drivers were prepared to accept the temporary licensing plan, but the brokers said they needed assurances they would not be locked into accepting the full mediator’s rate proposal for the next two years.

The mediator’s plan to boost the payment owner-operators receive to haul containers to and from the port was accepted by 90% of the owner/operators, who are represented by a newly-formed association. The plan attempted to raise rates to compensate drivers for operating expenses and higher fuel bills. The shipping brokers, however, turned down the agreement, saying the proposed rates were too high.

Officials say the fight has been hard to resolve because it is not a traditional labor dispute.

The nearly 1,000 drivers are largely independent operators who have an association but are not formally unionized, and many brokers are small businesses that use the unstructured rate system to compete with each other.

The short-haul drivers handle an estimated C$30 million a day in goods ranging from specialty grains to electronics.
The dispute has not stopped long-haul shipments from the port that are largely handled by railroads.

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