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Unionized port truckers reject deal, set to strike Monday

Container haulers call mediated agreement 'too little, too late'
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Unionized container truckers who serve Port Metro Vancouver are poised to strike Monday after voting over the weekend to reject a tentative mediated agreement.

The 300 members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association previously voted for strike action March 1 and last week issued strike notice before federally appointed mediator Vince Ready entered the talks.

"Our members have spoken: the deal was too little, too late," Unifor-VCTA president Paul Johal said after Saturday's vote.

Both the unionized truckers and several hundred other non-union truckers who have already withdrawn service say long line-ups and wait times at Port Metro Vancouver terminals are costing them money.

"We welcome the involvement of Vince Ready, but the feedback I’ve gotten is that our members need to see something far more immediate to improve their economic position," said Unifor's Gavin McGarrigle.

Unifor-VCTA’s collective agreement expired in June 2012. They are demanding increased pay rates and want the rates standardized and enforced across the sector to put an end to undercutting.

The non-unionized United Truckers Association drivers walked off the job Feb. 26 and there have since been accusations of vandalism, intimidation and violence in the dispute. Port officials have vowed to terminate the licences of about 40 truckers in response.

Port Metro Vancouver said it will seek to continue and expand its court injunction to keep protesters off port property.The port said it will also bolster security at critical locations for truck traffic heading to or from the port – one truck had its window smashed by a thrown rock last week. It will also continue putting security staff in trucks to help drivers heading to terminals and record any incidents.

Port Metro Vancouver says the current disruption at the port is having a serious impact on the free flow of goods through the Vancouver Gateway.

“The impact of truckers walking off the job is in the order of about $885 million per week,” said Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester, referring to the weekly value of goods moved by container truck in the region.

Ready, appointed by federal transportation minister Lisa Raitt, is to issue recommendations by May 30 after a detailed review of the Port Metro Vancouver trucking industry.

“The purpose of Mr. Ready’s appointment was to conduct a review of an industry that is clearly not functioning well for all stakeholders,” Silvester said. “We agree that truckers should be paid a fair wage, but bargaining relating to employment and contract relationships can only be done with the employer or the parties to the contract. Port Metro Vancouver is not the employer and is not party to the contract relationships.”

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, handling an estimated 135 million tonnes of cargo in 2013. Approximately 2,000 Port Metro Vancouver licensed trucks service the port, moving containers throughout the Lower Mainland.

– with files from Adrian MacNair

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