Port of Vancouver struggles under weight of truckers' work stoppage

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 3/19/2014

Pushing for higher wages and shorter wait times, more than 1,000 non-union independent truckers and 350 union drivers continue the work stoppage at the port of Vancouver. Progress has been at a stalemate in recent days and many are confused about where the port stands on several of the issues.

Port Metro Vancouver has publicly addressed several questions about the truck driver port strike, currently in the third week.

Port Metro Vancouver filed a lawsuit against the United Truckers Association in late February. According to the port’s website, the protests of the UTA are unlawful and cost economic damage as high as $885 million each week. Since UTA is an association and not a union, they have no bargaining authority.

In an update posted on Monday, March 17, Port Metro Vancouver stated it has no plans to drop the lawsuit, as they are seeking to recover losses and prevent future illegal protests. The lawsuit alleges violent and criminal behavior by the protesters.

Another big issue is wages. The port states it has no contractual arrangement with the truckers. They can work with trucking companies, shippers, government, etc., but they cannot directly negotiate wages. Since Port Metro Vancouver is not an employer or contractor, they are not in negotiation with protesting truckers and the UTA, despite contradicting claims. Trucker wages are the direct result of agreements with trucking companies. Non-union independent owners and operators are guaranteed a minimum rate that was agreed upon by truckers back in 2005.

Confusion as to whether or not negotiations are in place may stem from part of the 14-point Joint Action Plan that was announced on March 13, 2014. In it, a 10 percent increase of the minimum rates was offered “as a show of good faith.” However, the port pointed out that government cannot singlehandedly increase these rates, and that any wages beyond the minimum set back in 2005 are a matter of negotiations between truck drivers and the companies that employ them.

In addition to suing the protesting truck drivers, Port Metro Vancouver stated on its website that it is also considering canceling the permits of drivers who do not return to work. The website warns that “permits may be given to others who wish to become truck operators.” 

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