Unifor strike threat puts Metro’s ports on notice

METRO VANCOUVER — Port container truckers are warning they could to go on a second strike in less than a year over claims that the promises ending the first work stoppage have never been met.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias, whose union represents 300 container truckers in Metro Vancouver, said the undercutting of industry-wide rates by companies not abiding to the terms of the agreement is once again threatening labour peace.

"So they’re showing both the provincial and federal governments their middle fingers and the government doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it," said Dias.

The undercutting of rates also puts honest companies at an unfair competitive disadvantage, further putting truckers at risk added Dias.

"You can’t meet with all of the stakeholders, agree and celebrate that we have now stabilized the industry by establishing a floor for rates to make sure that there’s no undercutting and then do nothing to implement it," he said.

Container truckers serving Metro ports in Delta, Surrey, Vancouver, and North Vancouver, went on strike for one month in February and March 2014 to protest undercutting, low wages and long wait times at terminals.

The strike came to an end after the province, the federal government, Port Metro Vancouver and the union representing truckers negotiated an agreement with the help of labour mediator Vince Ready.

The provincial government agreed to increase trip rates by 10 per cent within one month of labour peace, strengthen rates enforcement and expand terminal operating hours to reduce wait times.

But Unifor claims that a new fee structure introduced by the province in December under the Container Trucking Act offers trucking companies the choice to pay their drivers hourly or by a flat rate, which Dias said will cost drivers $1,000 a month.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the new legislation will establish a rate structure that ensures truckers are paid fairly for their work.

"We believe this is the right starting point – allowing the Lower Mainland’s container trucking industry to move forward to ensure the continued efficient operation and global competitiveness of Port Metro Vancouver, which is critical to a robust provincial and national economy," reads the statement.

The ministry said it recognizes that truckers have identified some areas where they would like to see the regulation changed, and will look at those items over the next couple of weeks.

The ministry also intends to appoint a new, independent container trucking commissioner to provide oversight to the industry. The commissioner would be responsible for future rate setting, oversight of the audit and enforcement function and future licensing. He or she would also be directed to engage with labour and industry leaders through a committee to inform future decisions impacting the stability and competitiveness of the sector, according to the ministry.

Meanwhile over the next two weeks Dias said he would be meeting with B.C.’s transportation minister, Todd Stone, and federal transport minister Lisa Raitt to avert another strike.

The union president added the situation could be remedied if the province would simply crack down on trucking companies not living up to the terms of the 2014 agreement.

"This isn’t very complicated. All you need to do is pull the license of three or four or five of them and watch what happens."

amacnair@thenownewspaper.com

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