Port Metro Vancouver has issued an ultimatum to striking container truck drivers threatening to revoke their permits, after talks between government and drivers failed to make progress on the weekend.
Port chief executive Robin Silvester said those who don't return to work under the new plan could lose their permits to service the container terminals.
"A continued refusal by some truckers to provide such service is likely to result in suspension or termination of their permits by Port Metro Vancouver," said Silvester in a statement issued by the port on Sunday.
On Thursday, the federal and provincial governments and port officials released a 14-point plan designed to end the strike.
“The goal is simple, to get Port Metro Vancouver back to full operations," the statement said. "The action plan was facilitated by both Transport Canada and British Columbia's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. It addresses concerns raised by truckers in areas such as compensation and wait times, and is a means to get port operations back to normal.”
Silvester has promised the truckers that once the port returns to full operations, mediator Vince Ready will help with implementing the plan, but both unionized and non-unionized truckers have rejected the proposal.
Truckers demand negotiations first
Representatives of both unionized and non-unionized drivers said government officials were unwilling to negotiate during their Sunday meeting to discuss the government plan.
"We’re prepared to negotiate around the clock to end this dispute,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s B.C. area director, in a statement released on Sunday night.
"We’ve been trying for eight years to resolve these issues, and a negotiated agreement is the only sustainable solution. After that length of time, the port’s 'trust us' approach simply isn’t enough for our members."
The drivers are asking for standardized rates of pay to prevent under-cutting and a reduction in wait times at Port Metro Vancouver. They also want better wages paid while waiting at the port for loading and unloading.
"Container truck drivers deserve more than minimum wage for waiting time." said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, in the statement.
"Truckers understand the impact of the work stoppage, and we’re eager to find a speedy resolution,” said Johal.
Container shipping at the four terminals has been cut by about 90 per cent after about 400 unionized truckers went on strike last week, joining 1,000 non-unionized truckers who walked off the job in February.
Port officials estimate the strike is affecting about $885 million worth of cargo per week and Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it`s threatening the economy.
Back-to-work legislation possible
B.C.'s Transportation Minister Todd Stone says the port is of international importance and having it run well below capacity hurts the local economy as well as Canada's trade reputation with China.
Stone is expecting to meet with federal officials later today. When asked by reporters if discussions will include back-to-work legislation, Stone said all options should be considered because more and more B.C. businesses are feeling the brunt of the labour dispute.
"We're now receiving an increasing number of calls and notes from businesses across British Columbia who either have been compromised or are expecting to be compromised in some way due to the disruptions in the supply chain," Stone said Monday.