Over 300 unionised truck drivers voted unanimously to halt work on March 1st in a series of strikes against low pay rates and long waiting times at Port Metro Vancouver (PMV).
Unifor-VCTA members began to strike at 7.am on Monday. This follows a longstanding strike by 1,000 non-unionised truckers on February 26th to protest the long waiting times and low pay at Port Metro Vancouver.
Members have complained that lengthy loading/drop off times have affected the regular number of deliveries that truckers can make per day.
Not only are the strikers asking that if turnaround speed cannot be fixed, a standby fee be introduced to cover this, but also that pay rates be increased from the current CAN$15.59 hourly rate. The average rate of pay in the B.C. trucking industry is $23 an hour.
Strikes were hoped to be averted last Thursday after union members attended a meeting with Vince Ready.
Appointed by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, Ready has been called into conduct an independent review of the issues brought forward by the union and report back to the government on May 30th.
It was hoped that a deal thrashed out between the two parties would avert the strike, but sadly this collapsed on Saturday when members voted against the agreement.
Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s B.C. Area director, speaking to the Province said that the meeting came too late to prevent action: “we’ve warned the government for years how bad the conditions are.”
Whilst accepting Ready’s assistance in the matter, the feedback from the union is that they should not only receive some immediate recompense from the current situation, but also that all parties should be brought into the discussions.
Furthermore, McGarrigle continued to say that it would be difficult to organise a complete turn around as “there are like 180 different employers, there’s different unions, non-unions, fake unions and it’s so crazy, and there’s no stability.”
Robin Silvester, the president and CEO of PMV released a statement on Sunday noting that whilst the port agrees all workers should be paid a fair wage “PMV is not the employer and is not party to the contract relationships.”
Since the strikes held in February, PMV has also issued a lawsuit against the United Truckers Association that represents the thousands who stopped work, citing damages caused by disruptive action and damages to property.
There were reports of vandalism and breaks being cut throughout the day. PMV has issued a further warning that they will not hesitate to suspend and cancel permits of drivers involved in the violence.
Manny Dosange who speaks for the Trucker association has stated that the lawsuit now acts as a driving factor in the group’s decision to remain on strike.
PMV is North America’s largest export port by tonnage, and it is believed that as many as 2,000 trucks handle up to $885 million a week in cargo at PMV.
Last time protests of this magnitude were held was in 2005, truck drivers held strikes for 47 days at a loss of $400 million to the port.