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Unhappy Truckers Looking To Escalate Action With Strike Vote Today

Over 1 200 non-unionized container truckers began their campaign this week, after months of having their concerns ignored by Port Metro Vancouver.

- Hundreds of truckers gather for a strike at pullout near Highway 91 in Delta to protest what they say are long wait times at Port Metro Vancouver.

SURREY – Unhappy truckers who feel they are being short-changed by the ports are looking to shutdown work with an escalated action that could see them go on strike if the scheduled vote for a complete shutdown by both union and non-union truckers passes today (Saturday).

Earlier in the week, Unifor has announced a strike vote for Saturday over the same issues non-union drivers are unhappy with. The announcement for the vote came on Monday, the same day that non-union truckers started a service withdrawl.

Speaking to a packed house in New Westminster, union director Gavin McGarrigle says if the protest goes ahead, the consequences could be enormous.

“If matters are unresolved and our members are forced into job action, we believe the end result will be a complete shutdown of the ports in Vancouver,” McGarrigle said.

“We’ve seen this story before, too many times. Truckers shut down the Vancouver ports in 1999 and 2005 because government and the ports wouldn’t listen,” said Paul Johal, President of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA). “Container truckers are tired of lip-service and demand real changes and real solutions.”

North Surrey MP Jasbir Sandhu has come forward and thrown his support behind the United Truckers’ Association.

Over 1 200 non-unionized container truckers began their campaign this week, after months of having their concerns ignored by Port Metro Vancouver.

At the top of their priorities is excessively long wait times, where drivers are stalled in line for hours each day to pick up and drop off deliveries, all without being paid for their time. The long wait times also significantly impact local, regional and national trade.

“I have previously spoken in Parliament on behalf of the United Truckers’ Association, as well as written a letter to the Minister of Transportation, in an attempt to convince the government, and consequently Port Metro Vancouver, to pay attention to these very important concerns”, Sandhu said.

On October 29, 2013 Sandhu described the plight of the BC Truckers in the House of Commons: “Port Metro Vancouver is a major port that helps facilitate trade. In the last week, I have seen the trucking industry having major issues at the port. […] Truckers provide a vital role in the movement of goods throughout this country. However, they are having difficulty in picking up and dropping off their goods from the port, and the wait times are very long.”

As the United Truckers’ Association contemplates future action, Sandhu promises to continue working in Ottawa to get the industry federal attention.

Non-unionized truckers are took out their frustrations on Monday by taking to the road to protesting long line ups, wait times and rates at the Port of Vancouver, and they say it has become very difficult to make a decent living.

The drivers say that any work stoppage would idle half the trucking resources servicing the Port, and the slowdown could cost the economy $100-million a day. The Port says it expects business as usual, despite the withdrawal of services.

The BC Trucking Association, which represents carriers across the province, says the slowdown in container traffic at Metro Vancouver’s terminals could eventually hit consumers in the pocketbook.

CEO Louise Yako says the independent port truckers do have legitimate concerns, but there is an alternative.

“It is an open market, so to the extent that they are not achieving the compensation they need, they have an opportunity to move into other sections of trucking.”

She adds the trucking industry is facing shortages and there are opportunities for United Truckers Association drivers if they’re interested.

“We don’t want to park, we’ve been trying to get somebody to the table to talk to us, we’ve been lobbying everybody. But for whatever reason, they figured the economy had to come to a stop before we could get to the table and start talking,” said Manny Dosange, a spokesperson for the United Truckers Association.

Dosange said long wait lines at the Port are impacting the amount of cargo trucks can bring in and have shifted the cost to truckers. He said workers can no longer afford to operate.

Association members get paid by each load they bring in to the port and with fewer trips, they have been losing money and can’t afford to keep their rigs on the road, he said.

The association has issued four other demands to the port, ranging from setting and enforcing new rates, addressing the licensing system to clarifying rules about equipment on their trucks.

The truckers started their job action in Delta port, which is one of North America’s largest export ports, trading $172 billion in goods annually.

New allegations by the Port Metro Vancouver on Friday said the port is vowing to banish some container truckers it accuses of turning to violence and sabotage to apply more pressure as they threaten a complete shutdown.

“There are now allegations and evidence some protesters are disrupting port operations, including violence, intimidation and sabotage of trucks and property,” the port authority said in an emailed statement to Surrey Leader.

“These individuals will be identified and their licences to access port property will be terminated.”

The UTA has called for a mediator, mirroring what was done in 2005 to end a six-week work stoppage that paralyzed the port. Union reps say rates haven’t been changed since the deal brokered then by mediator Vince Ready but wait times have grown considerably.

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