LANGLEY, BC — A strike and protest by truckers at the Port Metro Vancouver turned from peaceful to aggressive, according to the Western Canadian Shippers’ Coalition (WCSC) and the BC Trucking Association (BCTA).
“The drivers of a number of trucks dispatched yesterday on the first day of a peaceful ‘education’ campaign by the United Truckers Association (UTA) were met with threats and harassment when they arrived at various container terminals throughout Metro Vancouver,” WCSC and BCTA stated.
The non-unionized truckers, part of UTA, went on strike to protest shipping practices at the port.
“Brake lines on two trucks have been cut in the past two days,” WCSC and BCTA stated. “This intimidation was in direct contradiction to a commitment made by the UTA to allow those who wanted to work to continue to do so.”
UTA informed port management Monday that they would go on strike and BCTA and WCSC say that industry representatives met with the UTA that same day to forestall the work stoppage.
“Exporters have made an effort to understand and communicate with the UTA. In fact, significant progress was made regarding UTA’s main issues – payment for waiting time and expanded terminal hours,” said WCSC Chairman Ian May.
But May claims some of UTA’s demands were unrealistic.
“Some owner-operators have justifiable concerns and want to raise awareness. That’s their right. But many other owner-operators and trucking companies simply want to service their customers. They should be allowed to do that without fear of reprisal,” said Louise Yako, BCTA president and CEO. “We believe there are immediate collaborative solutions to many of the complaints, but without responsible representation from the owner/operators they are unlikely to be implemented.”
WCSC represents transportation companies and associations their members are shippers from different commodity groups. BCTA is an advocacy organization representing over 1,200 truck and motor coach fleets and over 225 suppliers to the industry.
Unifor truck union to take strike vote
Meanwhile, Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association’s (VCTA) is also joining the strike. They’re a BC union representing container truckers with 300, 000 members.
“This morning’s protest is just the beginning,” said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-VCTA. “Truckers are prepared to escalate job action if the port and both levels of government don’t take our concerns seriously.”
Unifor will be holding a strike vote on March 1. Unifor-VCTA’s collective agreement expired in June 2012. During that time, the union has been raising concerns that long line-ups and wait times at the Port of Vancouver are costing truck drivers money and they’re demanding increased pay rates and that the rates are standardized and enforced across the sector to put an end to under-cutting.
“Without container truck drivers doing their job, ports grind to a halt. They are vital to BC and Canada’s economy, but the government is taking them for granted,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s BC area director. “We’re taking action because our members are finding it harder and harder to make a living in the industry.”