Peter Xotta

Peter Xotta

Divided workers, politicians complicate port truckers strike

Some drivers still loading at terminals, business leaders 'deeply troubled' by trade disruption

The union representing some Lower Mainland container truckers says finger pointing between the federal and provincial governments underscores how difficult it will be to end a strike crippling Port Metro Vancouver shipments.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark on Wednesday called the shutdown of most container shipments by truck unacceptable, but then both called on the other level of government to act, saying it’s not their primary jurisdiction.

Unifor B.C. area director Gavin McGarrigle said the fragmented container trucking industry will continue to be plagued by rate undercutting by various players unless it’s reformed and governed by an over-arching agreement.

Currently, some drivers are paid per container hauled while others get hourly wages, depending on whether they are unionized, working for non-union trucking companies or are independent owner-operators.

Unionized trucking firms refuse to sign new contracts with Unifor because they’ll immediately be underbid by the rest of the industry, McGarrigle said.

“It’s a mess, it’s crazy,” he said.

“There are about 180 different employers, there are unions, non-union (groups), fake unions, associations, lobby groups. But there’s nobody that has the ability to sit down and bargain a wall-to-wall agreement. And that’s what’s needed to stop this undercutting once and for all.”

Nearly 300 Unifor-represented container truckers have been on strike since Monday, joining several hundred more non-union owner-operators with the United Trucking Association who walked off the job about 10 days earlier.

Port Metro Vancouver officials said some drivers not part of the walkout are continuing to haul.

Spokesman John Parker-Jervis said container truck loading was about 10 to 15 per cent of normal earlier in the week, but that climbed to 24 per cent on Wednesday.

He said the port’s offer of ride-along security for drivers that continue to work may be “providing some comfort.”

But the crimp on shipments in and out of the port is beginning to be felt, reducing the normal flow into B.C. of imports ranging from South American wine to Asian consumer electronics.

While many firms are looking to redirect shipments through other ports like Seattle, that’s also expensive and disruptive.

B.C. Business Council executive director Jock Finlayson said the complex dispute is already causing economic hardship.

“It is doing damage to the reputation of this region as a reliable trade gateway,” Finlayson said. “If the dispute persists, the damage can only increase.”

The port is also crucial to resource industry exporters – from B.C. forest companies to Prairie grain farmers.

Finlayson said business leaders are “deeply troubled” and strong government action is needed.

Groups representing drivers say they’re paid on average $15.59 an hour compared to about $23 an hour in the B.C. trucking industry as a whole.

Peter Xotta, Port Metro Vancouver’s vice-president of planning and operations, said said the port makes no apologies for filing a lawsuit for damages against the United Truckers Association, which it blames for violence and intimidation at terminals.

“We’re going to take any step we can to encourage the parties to stop that behaviour and get back to work, including legal recourse,” he said.

Xotta said the port had been close to unrolling one reform aimed at improving work conditions – extended terminal hours so some trucks can move in the evenings, reducing lineups and wait times during the day.

The challenge has been ensuring shippers and other facilities are also open to send or receive containers at night, he said.

One option under consideration has been a differential port access fee where it would cost truckers less to load at night than during the day, helping subsidize a shift to evenings.

But drivers aren’t necessarily keen on the idea.

“That’s a solution that benefits the trucking company owners and doesn’t really do much for the workers,” McGarrigle said.

Just Posted

Agassiz Agricultural Hall hosts COVID-19 vaccination clinics every Wednesday. District officials reported more than 300 doses are administered per week. (Adam Louis/Observer)
Walk-in COVID vaccine clinic scheduled for Wednesday

Walk-in appointments available while supplies last from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in March at the Hope Station House, showing support for preserving the 1916 building. (Photo/Christian Ward)
New reports breathe life into efforts to save the Hope Station House

The documents were presented to District of Hope Council at a meeting June 14

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Most Read