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Trucking strike looms with new rates

By Jane Deacon

Truck drivers held strikes for three weeks earlier this year, shutting down operations at Port Metro Vancouver. 
(Carmine Marinelli, 24 hours)

Truck drivers held strikes for three weeks earlier this year, shutting down operations at Port Metro Vancouver. (Carmine Marinelli, 24 hours)

For the second time this year, Vancouver-area ports could be hit with shutdowns as container truck drivers consider another strike.

Several hundred truckers are expected to meet in Surrey this weekend to discuss potential port protests after the provincial government introduced new payment rates this week – rates that undercut what truckers have been promised, say local unions.

This spring, more than 1,000 non-union drivers and 350 unionized drivers walked off the job for three weeks, demanding the province fix long wait times and low rates cutting into their profits.

The two sides reached an agreement in March and truckers headed back to work under the understanding that new, fairer rates would be delivered within a month, said Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director of Unifor, a union representing hundreds of truckers.

But the rates weren’t released until eight months later and what’s now on the table is significantly less than what was reached under previous negotiations, he said.

“Unfortunately this feels like it’s been one long, drawn-out game of bait and switch,” said McGarrigle. “Get us back to work, drag out the time-frames and then right before Christmas, cut the legs out from under the truck drivers.”

Some hourly employees stand to earn as much as $250 per week less than what was negotiated, while changes to daily pay minimums could leave owner-operators thousands of dollars behind, he said.

A $300-per-day minimum has been cut to $200, while new discrepancies as to whether drivers are paid by the hour or the trip gives employers an unfair upper hand, he said.

Truckers will consider all of their options at this weekend’s meeting, he said, including the possibility of another strike that could shut down Port Metro Vancouver.

“The non-union folks are also very upset and there’s lots of talk about job action and shutting down the port once again,” he said. “Certainly we expect that the vast majority of the truckers on the port will join us in taking action if that’s the need.”

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure did not respond to interview requests by press deadline, but a Monday ministry release said the new proposed rates “(provide) fair wages for these truckers moving forward, plus other improvements.”

“It is a complicated situation and it has been hard to find a solution that pleases everyone,” it read.

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