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Port Metro Vancouver dispute escalates as unions join fight 0

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

Independent truckers stage a protest and work stoppage over what they say are low rates and long wait times at Port Metro Vancouver on February 26, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

Independent truckers stage a protest and work stoppage over what they say are low rates and long wait times at Port Metro Vancouver on February 26, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

"In 2005, it took them six weeks before they realized that this was costing the economy hundreds of millions. We’re hoping early intervention at this stage can help head this thing off before it leads to a complete shutdown.” — Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor

A full-scale shutdown of Port Metro Vancouver looms after unionized drivers said they will be taking a strike vote in solidarity with independent truckers upset at working conditions.

Truckers are also calling for a mediator to be brought in to work out a deal, similar to how a work stoppage in 2005 was ended.

The United Truckers Association put the brakes on hauling containers — and the gas on protesting — Wednesday morning, citing long waits to load and unload, plus poor compensation among reasons for the action.

Port officials insisted the dispute is with employers and weather has been the reason for the long waits.

But on Wednesday unionized drivers represented by Unifor voiced support for the truckers and said they will be holding a strike vote on Saturday, requesting mediator Vince Ready to review the situation and recommend a solution.

“He recommended a deal in 2005 that nobody liked, but everybody could live with,” said Unifor spokesman Gavin McGarrigle. “It takes more than just the ports, it’s going to take the federal government and the provincial government to bring all the stakeholders together and show some leadership.”

The union has contract talks coming up itself and said undercutting and an “unstable” regulatory environment has been a concern.

The 2005 disagreement shut the port down for six weeks and McGarrigle said it cost hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy.

According to Manny Dosange of the UTA, support from the unions was not entirely unexpected, but appreciated.

The co-operation does not mean the more than 1,200 drivers will be joining unions, Dosange said.

“We made it very clear this is not going to happen,” Dosange said. “We have no interest in becoming union.”

Dosange characterized the co-operation as two groups facing the same issue.

On Tuesday, the PMV said the work stoppage of independent truckers would not shut down the port, but did not respond for further reaction Wednesday following the news Unifor was considering walking off the job as well.  

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