Legislation tabled to end Vancouver port strike
Truck drivers on strike at Port Metro Vancouver off of McGill Street entrance in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday March 24, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
The B.C. government tabled legislation Monday to impose a 90-day cooling off period and force striking truckers back to work at Port Metro Vancouver.
More than 1,000 non-union drivers and 350 unionized drivers have been off the job for about three weeks, demanding the port sort out long wait times and low rates cutting into their profits.
The legislation would force the unionized drivers to start hauling while a deal is worked out, but the union said the port has known about the problems a long time without fixing them.
The port has threatened to revoke the licences of the non-union truckers, many of whom are owner-operators.
BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix accused Transportation Minister Todd Stone of allowing the federally controlled port and its managers, many making more than $350,000 a year, to push the drivers around.
“Here we have an unaccountable federal agency threatening small business people in B.C.,” Dix said. “Does he agree with threats made by Port Metro Vancouver against 1,100 small business people in B.C. to revoke their licence if they don’t get their own way?”
The drivers said the delays are forcing their hourly wage down to around $15.60 an hour and rejected a March 8 proposal to end the strike by mediator Vince Ready.
Despite the BC Liberals’ calls for them to “come back” to the bargaining table, truckers said they were never included in the initial draft of Ready’s 14-point plan.
Victoria has billed the legislation as a moved to “normalize” port operations and threatens stiff penalties if the union does not return to the job.
Stone said the economy of the province is at stake.
“There are 100,000 direct or indirect jobs, 60,000 of which are here in British Columbia, $126 million in cargo that moves through this port every single day, on a normal operating day,” Stone said. “There is the potential for increased job losses, impacts in every corner of our province.”
The NDP also accused the port of hiking storage fees for containers that cannot be moved because of the strike, demanding Stone force PMV to refund the money to small business owners.
But Stone did not directly respond to the request.
Over the weekend drivers said they would not succumb to the legislation.