DAILY NEWS Feb 26, 2014 5:10 PM - 0 comments

Truckers form blockade at Port Metro Vancouver

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2014-02-26

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- At this point there still doesn't seem to be an accurate count of just how many truckers parked their rigs and protested at Port Metro Vancouver today, but the consensus is it's a large number.

The Financial Post calls it "roughly 1,400", CBC British Columbia says "some 1,200 Metro Vancouver container truckers" while CTV News Vancouver provides a lower estimate of "hundreds". But no matter the exact figure, it's possible to say a significant number of owner/operators tried to make their concerns about port delays heard.

The O/Os aren't unionized, but they are part of the United Truckers Association. They are frustrated with operations at the port, claiming they experience excessively long wait times waiting times. They also wish to see pay-rate enforcement as a way to eliminate under-cutting of prices.

Port Metro Vancouver says it really in a position to do anything about the truckers' complaints. In a statement, port vice-president of planning and operations Peter Xotta said, "Though we cannot get in the middle of the commercial relationship drivers have with trucking companies, the port is committed to continued collaboration with the UTA and other stakeholders in enhancing operational efficiencies within our jurisdiction.

"It is in the best interests of all stakeholders to maximize the efficiency of the port and Port Metro Vancouver actively works with stakeholders to ensure the efficient and reliable movement of cargo in support of Canada's domestic and international trade."

According to the port, many recent delays can be blamed on the elements rather than on procedures.

"Over the past two months, extreme weather conditions in eastern and central North America have forced the need to shorten and slow trains so they could operate safely. Meanwhile, storms in the Pacific Ocean delayed ships. Overall, there has been enormous impact on the movement of goods, affecting railways and terminal operators, and at times, causing extended delays for truckers."

It's not just the independent O/Os who are unhappy with the situation at the port. Unifor is also readying itself to take action to gain some improvement in the situation. The union's BC trucking branch, Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA), has a strike vote set for Saturday, March 1.

According to Unifor, the VCTA is "fed up with a lack of progress at the bargaining table and government inaction that is costing truckers money."

Commenting on the UTA action, Paul Johal, president of Unifor-VCTA, said, "This morning’s protest is just the beginning. Truckers are prepared to escalate job action if the port and both levels of government don’t take our concerns seriously.”

BC’s largest union representing container truckers will be holding a strike vote on Saturday, March 1. Members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA) are fed up with a lack of progress at the bargaining table and government inaction that is costing truckers money.

Unifor is in a position to call for a strike as its collective agreement expired in June 2012. Since then, Unifor says it has been "raising concerns that long line-ups and wait times at the Port of Vancouver are costing truck drivers money. Unifor-VCTA is demanding increased rates of pay at the bargaining table and wants the rates standardized and enforced across the sector to put an end to under-cutting."

Gavin McGarrigle explains why he feels a strike vote is necessary.

“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. We’re taking action because our members are finding it harder and harder to make a living in the industry.”

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