Vancouver port shutdown could force shipments south
Job action involving 1,500 truckers is expected to begin today at Port Metro Vancouver. But the CEO of Vancouver Board of Trade warns the work stoppage could drive containers south to places such as the Port of Seattle. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
A former provincial labour minister and current CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade is warning B.C. would lose business to the United States if local container truck traffic is hit by a strike.
On Monday, the United Truckers Association and Unifor — representing about 1,500 truck drivers in total — are expected to protest and strike with the intent of targeting Port Metro Vancouver’s operations.
UTA director Harmen Shergill said his association has been on job action since late February, with members protesting outside the Vancouver port and Deltaport around the clock. Unifor rejected a tentative deal Saturday and is expected to join their allies on Monday with their 400 members.
Board of Trade CEO Iain Black said on Sunday about $885 million in trucking cargo is being disrupted weekly — much of that could go to the U.S.
“The cargo must find its home,” he said. “If it’s not leaving through Port Metro Vancouver, then it’ll leave through Los Angeles, it’ll be through Seattle, it’ll be through San Francisco.”
He said that option is particularly attractive for businesses further away from Vancouver.
“This is not a small amount of cargo … you’re talking about 1.3 million containers.”
Black said the truckers have also targeted the wrong organization — the port — as they’re a regulator that only has control over waiting times, which is just one aspect of the drivers’ complaints.
“The eventual conclusion to this … is typically where the courts and legislation gets involved,” he said.
“Unfortunately, my guess is that’s where it’ll end up if the cooler heads don’t prevail.”
Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor B.C. area director, said the union rejected a “status quo” deal overwhelmingly before committing to strike. He said Port Metro is being targeted because — with about 180 employers out there — there’s no one organization that oversees truck traffic in B.C.
“It’s the wild west out there,” McGarrigle said. “The workers are working longer hours. They’ve had more costs downloaded. There’s no one stable rate across the country. The ready rates are not enforced, and certainly not in a transparent and effective way.”