The B.C. and federal governments and Port Metro Vancouver have agreed to a plan they hope will resolve the ongoing container truckers' strike, but it isn't yet clear if the drivers will return to work.
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced she was supporting the 14-point plan late Thursday night, following urgent calls from B.C.'s transportation minister for her to take immediate action.
"I am confident that the joint action plan that has been put in place today will allow the truckers to return to work and the port to return to normal operations immediately," Raitt said in a statement released by her office.
United Truckers Association spokesman Manny Dosange says his group, which represents more than 1,000 non-union drivers, has not been officially informed of the proposals but has received the details third-hand and is willing to consider them.
In a terse, one-sentence email issued last night, Unifor, which represents the other 400 unionized container truckers in the dispute, said it was given the proposals late yesterday at the same time as the general public, and is "reviewing" the 14-point list.
The truck drivers are demanding standardized rates of pay across the trucking sector to prevent undercutting and a reduction in wait times at the port.
- A commitment to end most legal action launched by the port against some drivers, except those involved in criminal actions.
- Changes to rate structures, licensing, fuel surcharges and audits of companies to ensure drivers are paid fair compensation.
- Changes to reduce wait times for drivers including extended hours at container terminals.
- The creation of an industry oversight committee.
- The use of mediation to settle future disputes.
- A whistleblower mechanism for reporting harassment and licensing issues.
- Expansion of the GPS tracking system to all trucks working the ports.
B.C. calls for immediate action
The plan was first released by B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone at a news conference in Vancouver Thursday afternoon.
Stone told reporters federal and provincial officials worked late into the night Wednesday to come up with 14 proposals to present to striking container truck drivers.
Noting the impact on the overall economy, Stone asked Raitt to get on a plane as soon as possible and come to Vancouver to help put an immediate end to the strike. Port Metro Vancouver is run by an agency controlled by the federal government.
"This is Canada's largest port, and the port is on its knees," Stone said Thursday. "We received word this morning that within 24 hours ships will be diverted from the Port of Vancouver and will be diverted to Seattle."
Port Metro Vancouver is the country's busiest port, and the strike by truckers is affecting $100 million in goods every day. Port officials say the job action has stopped 90 per cent of container traffic in and out of the ports.