Port truck drivers eye another strike in Vancouver

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Monday, June 23, 2014

Port truck drivers that serve Canada’s largest port are again threatening to stop working, while port officials are threatening to remove access for trucking companies that don’t treat drivers fairly.

Operations at the Port of Vancouver, B.C. were hampered in March when the truck drivers walked off the job for 28 days. That work stoppage resulted in the crafting of the port’s Joint Action Plan – an agreement stipulating truck driver pay rates.

Drayage drivers are concerned that trucking companies are already undercutting the newly agreed upon pay rates.

Port Metro Vancouver and the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation jointly launched a whistle-blower hotline that truckers can call or email when companies don’t pay the contractually-bound rates.

The hotline – available 24 hours and seven days a week – is offered in both English and Punjabi. Callers may remain anonymous. The number is 877-713-5109.  For more information, visit the port website.

In a news release issued June 17, port officials stated the port is expediting audits to “ensure employers are paying truckers.”

Port leaders appear ready to leverage license agreements with drayage companies in order to enforce its required rates.

“Trucking companies are reminded that they must fully comply with the terms of the action plan and with all aspects of their License Agreements with Port Metro Vancouver, in order to play their part in ensuring the port remains stable and competitive,” the port news release reads. “To that end, targeted, expedited audits will take place in the coming weeks to ensure employers are paying truckers according to the action plan. Port Metro Vancouver will respond to instances of non-compliance with penalties where necessary, and advises that future port access could be at risk for any company whose actions are placing the long-term, stable operation of the port in jeopardy.”

Peter Xotta, vice president of planning and operations at the port, said the port will continue addressing long-standing issues in its container trucking sector.

“Truckers should feel confident that their concerns are being heard and acted upon,” Xotta said, according to the release.

If one union’s estimates are correct, the port’s enforcement will be busy.

The Globe and Mail reported that Gavin McGarrigle of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers Association estimated about “one-third of trucking companies are not fully complying,” with the Joint Action Plan – which requires pay rates on a round-trip basis.

“There are numerous companies out there that have said they have no intention of paying that,” McGarrigle said, according to the Globe and Mail.

The Port of Vancouver sees about $184 billion in goods annually moved through its container terminals.

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