Six container trucking companies that defied provincial orders to pay their drivers higher legislated rates as well as retroactive pay got a stern warning Tuesday from Transportation Minister Todd Stone.
The six companies flagged in an audit haven’t yet been identified but Stone said they face potentially severe sanctions unless they pay what may add up to millions of dollars in back wages.
Another 13 trucking companies are being audited and could also be penalized if they’re found to have failed to pay the required rates.
“A couple of the companies that have been notified have paid what they owed their truckers,” Stone said. “Others have opted not to, for reasons known only to them at this point. But there will be sanctions for all six of these companies.”
He said the sanctions against the companies could range from fines to suspension of their licence to access the port to an outright ban from port terminals.
The higher rates and retroactive pay legislated by the province were part of a new licensing system imposed to stabilize the port trucking industry after a month-long strike in 2014.
Stone’s comments came after the container trucking commissioner appointed by the province earlier in the year resigned Sept. 15 amid accusations he did not do enough to enforce rate compliance.
The Office of the Container Trucking Commissioner continues to function while a replacement is recruited, Stone said, and staff there are determining appropriate sanctions.
Unifor spokesman Gavin McGarrigle said the “rogue” trucking firms have left many of the region’s 1,500 container truck drivers with less pay than promised.
One firm with 90 drivers owes them an average of $15,000 each, he said.
McGarrigle said shippers have been paying higher rates to the trucking firms, which have been pocketing the difference saved from underpaying drivers.
“It’s a tonne of money and it’s led to a lot of instability,” said McGarrigle, who is calling for stiff sanctions. “Some of the worst offenders should be kicked right out of the port.”
Meanwhile, the union has filed a court challenge against what it calls the inconsistent application of emission regulations.
Unifor says Port Metro Vancouver banned the use of trucks older than 10 years old even though the port continues to operate older trucks itself.