THE union representing container truck drivers in Vancouver is calling on federal Minister of Transportation Lisa Raitt to get to the bargaining table immediately to negotiate a sustainable solution to the Port of Metro Vancouver dispute.
“I have called the minister every day since last Thursday, and she won’t even pick up the phone,” said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor. “We’re prepared to work around the clock to find a sustainable solution, but Minister Raitt would rather pick a fight than find a solution.”
Involved in the dispute are nearly 200 truck company owners, 1000 non-union drivers, 350 union drivers, the BC government, and the Port bosses. With so many parties involved, Unifor has lobbied to have an independent third party assist with a negotiated settlement.
“Mediator Vince Ready probably could have solved this two weeks ago if minister Raitt was interested in finding a solution,” said Dias. “The minister is kidding herself if she thinks that the solution is forced-work legislation. Workers will not be forced back to work because the minister refuses to sit down and have the dialogue required to find a solution.”
The BC government tabled forced-work legislation on March 24, but Unifor says this will only prolong and complicate matters.
“A negotiated settlement is the only sustainable solution,” said Paul Johal, president of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA). “The government’s heavy-handed tactics will not ensure stability at the Port of Metro Vancouver.”
ON Monday the provincial government introduced legislation bringing in a 90-day cooling-off period for the 250 striking Unifor truckers impacting the Port Metro Vancouver.
The government claimed that though its preference is always to see disputes such as this settled through collective bargaining, that has not worked in this situation involving various parties and complex issues. As a result, the provincial and national economies are at risk of long-term damage. It said the cooling-off period is a reasonable step to get Unifor truckers back on the job, give them time to work toward a solution at the bargaining table, and allow Vince Ready to begin working to help the parties resolve their issues.
It said that after weeks of efforts to end the dispute, this legislation was a necessary step. The legislation obliges the striking Unifor truckers to continue bargaining in good faith and make every reasonable effort to reach a collective agreement. During this period any lockout or continued strike activity by Unifor will trigger significant penalties for either the employer or employees.
The legislation addresses the immediate and co-ordinated action necessary to resolve the work disruption at the Port. If necessary, the legislation also permits the minister to extend the cooling-off period for up to an additional 60 days.
The government said this legislation is critical to ensure bargaining resumes and the effects of the work disruption are minimized. The governments of Canada and B.C., along with Port Metro Vancouver, say they are committed to implementing the 14-point Action Plan from March 13 with the help of Ready, once work resumes.
Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour, said: “This legislation is being tabled reluctantly and comes after multiple attempts over recent weeks to end the dispute and get Port Metro Vancouver back to full capacity. The disruption at Canada’s largest and busiest port is impacting our economy, jobs and our trading reputation. This 90-day cooling off period will allow the parties to get back to the bargaining table while normal Port operations resume and goods get moving again.”