MANY angry container truck drivers and company owners held an open meeting on Tuesday at Surrey’s Grand Taj Banquet Hall to demand a solution to the crisis they are facing following denial of licences to them by Port Metro Vancouver.
They wanted to know why they have been given a raw deal while 68 companies received 1,450 tags to transport containers. Those left out are facing financial disaster, they claimed.
On Wednesday, the truckers met in Delta and then drove their vehicles down Highway 91 to Vancouver via Richmond in protest.
BUT Peter Xotta, Vice President, Planning and Operations, of Port Metro Vancouver in a statement issued on Monday said the changes were needed for stability and that there was a program available to ease the transition.
He said: “For years, the local container trucking sector that serves Port Metro Vancouver has been unstable and drivers have found it increasingly difficult to make a living. There is widespread agreement there are too many trucking companies and drivers, which has resulted in undercutting and other problems.
“Port Metro Vancouver has reformed the Truck Licensing System, in consultation with the provincial and federal government, drivers, companies, industry and stakeholders. This reform will mean more stable service to the port and a better living for those who participate.
“Unfortunately, this means not everyone who is currently licensed to access the port will be licensed going forward. We recognize this transition may be difficult. Port Metro Vancouver is offering a generous transition program to eligible owner operators, provided there is no disruption that impacts container movements to the port. The program includes a funding package and administrative assistance with scrapping or auctioning trucks no longer wanted. In addition, support for impacted individuals will be available through the Province’s WorkBC program, and the federal Service Canada program.
“There was a broad range of criteria established for deciding what companies were accepted to the reformed Truck Licensing System. Consultation took place with all involved parties between October and December of 2014. The final criteria was made public in December. They include basic entry standards such as the ability to pay charges to fund the provincial auditing program and Port Metro Vancouver’s costs, ability to provide a compliance bond and adequate insurance, and meeting basic environmental standards. Additional criteria looked at items such as past history in the Truck Licensing System, and status with WorkSafeBC. Companies were rated based on the criteria, and 68 companies representing 1,450 truck tags were approved. Debriefing meetings will be made available to companies with unsuccessful applications to discuss why applications were not approved, and offer guidance in the event the application process is opened in the future.
“The goal of the reform is to stabilize the container trucking sector and ensure drivers earn a good living. It is unfortunate, and unavoidable, that some will no longer be licensed to access the port, but they are still able to provide driving services that do not require port access.”
NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey-North) raised the issue in the House of Commons, asking the federal government to stop passing the buck.
Sandhu noted that although almost 600 port workers were at risk of losing their jobs following a new licensing system instituted at Port Metro Vancouver, the provincial and federal governments still couldn’t care less.
He said: “First these families make it through a bitter strike, now they’re still waiting for the agreement they negotiated to be honoured and they find out they could lose their jobs – enough is enough.”
Sandhu added: “Liberal and Conservative governments are playing political football with good-paying, middle-class jobs. The government should work to end future disruptions and help these families.”
NDP MP Jinny Sims (Newton-North Delta) said: “I’m worried about more job losses for the people of Surrey and surrounding areas. All over again, we’re seeing behaviour startlingly close to what we saw a year ago, with the Liberal Premier and federal Conservatives slinging mud back and forth.”
The MPs noted that earlier this week Premier Christy Clark went on record blaming the federal Conservatives for the latest of the beleaguered Port’s problems.