Port Metro Vancouver: truck drivers vow to continue strike
Truckers say they will fight attempts to 'bully' them back to work without negotiated settlement
Striking container truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver are vowing not to return to work, after the port and B.C. government issued new ultimatums on Wednesday in an attempt to end the ongoing labour dispute.
The truckers say the "bully tactics" aren't the answer and will make a bad situation worse.
About 50 joined a rally at the Vancouver container terminal early Thursday morning, saying back-to-work legislation won't solve the root causes of the dispute: low wages and long wait-times to pick up loads at the port.
Ravinder Garcha is an owner-operator who says his truck will stay parked until he sees a fair negotiated settlement.
"The federal government and the provincial government are playing ping-pong right now," said Garcha.
"They know what they need to do, and we've been inviting them to sit down and talk to us — not force us back to work, but sit down and come up with a better plan … so we don't have to do this time after time after time."
Many said the port's threat not to renew their licences was not a concern because they can't afford to return to work anyway, and called on the federal government to step in and negotiate an end to the dispute.
The drivers are demanding standardized rates of pay across the trucking sector to prevent undercutting and a reduction in wait times at the port.
Manny Dosanjh, of the United Trucker's Association, which represents about 1,200 non-union drivers involved in the dispute, says he does not expect drivers will return to work any time soon.
"It's wishful thinking on their part," he said Wednesday.
Licences at risk
Nevertheless Port Metro Vancouver president Robin Silvester says he expects everyone with a current licence or permit to report to work on Thursday or risk losing their licence.
Silvester said the port is pushing ahead with licence reform and won't be renewing old licences as they expire. The port has also issued notices to terminate the licences and permits of up to 150 truckers which are due to expire soon.
"I cannot imagine why we would issue future licences or permits under the new licensing system to truck drivers who are not at work tomorrow," he said Wednesday.
Silvester says the port plans to begin implementing the 14-point action plan for reform presented seven days ago to the truckers by both the federal and provincial governments.
The plan was based on recommendations from veteran mediator Vince Ready who was appointed by the federal government to look at the issues surrounding the strike.
But it was rejected earlier this week when the truckers demanded more negotiations first.
Back-to-work legislation coming
The B.C. government also announced Wednesday it is preparing back-to-work legislation that will apply to about 250 unionized drivers who went on strike on March 10.
The province says the legislation, which could be introduced as early as Monday, includes a 90-day cooling off period.
Only unions can be legislated back to work and Unifor-VCTA, the union representing container truckers, is the target of the government legislation.
President Paul Johal also says trying to force his members to work will only make a bad situation worse.
"The minister can’t expect to stick his head in the sand and make this go away,” said Johal.
“A negotiated settlement is the only sustainable solution.”
Port Metro Vancouver is the country's busiest port and the strike by truckers has been impacting $100 million worth of goods every day.
The strike started in February when non-union container truckers withdrew their services. It picked up steam in early March when unionized drivers also went on strike.
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.
With files from Meera Bains