BC Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s refusal to negotiate with container truck drivers and the introduction of forced-work legislation will only make matters worse in the port dispute, says Unifor.
“The minister can’t expect to stick his head in the sand and make this go away,” said Paul Johal, President of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA), on Wednesday. “A negotiated settlement is the only sustainable solution.”
After more than 18 months of failed negotiations, Unifor-VCTA members voted 100% in favour of a strike on March 1. Truck drivers have been raising concerns that long line-ups and wait times at the Port of Vancouver are costing truck drivers money and that rates agreed to in previous contract negotiations were not being honoured due to under-cutting.
“Stripping workers of their right to negotiate fair working conditions is not leadership,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor’s National President. “We’re actively seeking a resolution that works for everyone, but that can’t be done if the minister doesn’t take workers’ rights seriously.”
THE Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and Port Metro Vancouver announced on Wednesday that they are taking immediate and coordinated action to address the work disruption at Port Metro Vancouver, Canada’s Asia-Pacific gateway.
Port Metro Vancouver will begin its planned reform of the licensing system and move to terminate licenses.
The Government of British Columbia is preparing back-to-work legislation with a 90-day cooling off period for 250 truckers who are members of Unifor, with the intention of introduction in the Legislature as early as Monday, March 24.
These actions are necessary, and are required today to protect the economy, protect jobs for British Columbians and Canadians, and keep goods and services moving across the country, according to the province.
It has been seven days since the joint 14-point Action Plan was presented to truckers, as developed by both governments and PMV on the basis of recommendations from Vince Ready. Despite the offer to work on the plan, truckers have not returned to work. On March 8, truckers rejected a proposal to end the job action presented by Ready, despite the endorsement of union leadership, said the province.
The governments of Canada and B.C., along with Port Metro Vancouver, are committed to implementing the 14-point Action Plan with the help of Ready, once work resumes. The plan ensures truck drivers are paid fair compensation and a quick implementation of pilot measures to help reduce wait times at container terminals and the creation of an industry oversight committee, according to the province.
NDP MP Jinny Sims (Newton-North Delta) on Wednesday met with constituents who work at Port Metro Vancouver, the latest in a series of meetings with stakeholders dating back to last year.
Simas said: “The only solution is at the bargaining table. It is time for the federal government and the province to stop playing hot potato with their mutual responsibility on this issue.”
Hard-working families, business interests and related industries are all bearing the consequences of the labour dispute; sawmills are beginning to lay people off, the shipment of grains and legumes has halted and small business owners are incurring exorbitant storage costs by day because goods are not moving, Sims noted.
“It is time for the government to bring back Mr. Ready to resolve this dispute, and get these workers back on the job. We need to keep our local economy moving,” said Sims.