Truckers’ firm stand forces governments, Port to announce 14-point plan to end dispute

truckFEDERAL Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, B.C.’s Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone and Robin Silvester, President and Chief Executive Officer, Port Metro Vancouver, on Thursday announced a 14-point action plan to try and return the port to normal operations. They said the plan will help ensure truck drivers are paid fair compensation. It also includes rapid implementation of pilot measures to help reduce wait times at container terminals and the creation of an industry oversight committee.

The federal government said that the efficient movement of marine containers through Port Metro Vancouver is critical to Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway and the national economy. The work stoppage of the last two weeks has resulted in severe impacts on the national economy, and with the immediate implementation of the 14-point action plan we expect an immediate and full return to work by truck drivers.

As part of the plan, and to address industry instability and concerns about undercutting agreed rates, Port Metro Vancouver will restructure its Truck Licensing System. This comes after months of consultation with industry, trucking companies and federal and provincial governments, and has benefited from the work of Vince Ready and his discussions with truck operators. Port Metro Vancouver will consult with trucking industry stakeholders, with the intent to implement reforms by June 15.

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest port. In 2013, the port handled a record 135 million tonnes of cargo, an overall increase of 9 percent over 2012.

Approximately 2,000 Port Metro Vancouver licensed trucks service the port moving containers throughout the Lower Mainland.

The local trucking industry moves approximately 1.3 million TEUs [twenty-foot equivalent units]  per year in Port Metro Vancouver. Based on 2011 economic impact study figures, the value of those goods would be worth approximately $46 billion or roughly $885 million per week.

Raitt said: “I have asked Port Metro Vancouver to implement the agreed upon action plan. It is time to get the port working once again and we expect the trucking industry to do their part and immediately return to work.”

Stone said: “The Port of Metro Vancouver – the largest in Canada – is critical to the economy of B.C. and Canada providing good paying jobs. I am confident that the joint action plan that has been put in place today will allow the truckers to return to work and the port to return to normal operations immediately.”

Silvester said: “We are fully behind these changes and intend to put them in place quickly, in consultation with stakeholders in the trucking community. Our goal is to rapidly improve the truck licensing system to more effectively manage the trucking services marketplace, improve efficiencies and ensure there is effective compliance monitoring in place with respect to rates.”

Meanwhile, NDP MP Jinny Sims issued a statement on Thursday accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark of playing political football with an important issue.

Sims said: “Enough is enough. The time to act is now. It is absolutely unacceptable that, instead of addressing the concerns of truckers and resolving the labour dispute, the Prime Minister and the BC Premier are playing political football with an important issue. The job action could have been averted if the Federal Government had not ignored all the warning signs for so long, and taken timely action to resolve the disputes.

“The Ports of Metro Vancouver are crucial to our economy. Business interests are suffering and people working at the port and related industries are feeling the consequences of the dispute.  If this situation is not resolved, the consequences will continue to be felt by workers, families and communities across BC.

“In order to create a resolution that gets everyone back to work, I call on Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to bring all the parties to the table to resolve the long outstanding issues.”

MEMBERS of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA) voted last Saturday to reject a tentative agreement brokered on Thursday last week by federally appointed mediator Vince Ready.

“Our members have spoken: the deal was too little, too late,” said Paul Johal, President of Unifor-VCTA.

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.

“We’ve warned the government for years how bad the conditions are,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s BC Area Director. “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.”