Truckers at Port Metro Vancouver, which ships more than $170 billion worth of goods each year, are fighting for higher wages and against long hours and unpaid time waiting to pick up or unload containers.
On Feb. 26 about 1,200 nonunion truckers, part of the United Truckers Association, a nonprofit organization, went on strike. They were joined March 10 by 400 unionized truckers, organized by Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association.
Angry at waiting times that can run up to four hours or longer to offload containers at Port Metro Vancouver docks, the 400 unionized drivers unanimously voted to strike. They reinforced pickets set up by the nonunion truckers at a number of locations in and around Vancouver, including four separate port terminals and nearly a dozen trucking companies.
“We want to keep the nonunion guys involved in this fight,” a driver who has worked at the port for seven years, who didn’t want his name used, told the Militant. “We’d like to see them in the union.”
Owner-operator Jaspal Kang, a nonunion trucker, said some trucking companies are paying as little as $50 per container to new drivers. They are undercutting the rate of $100 to $185 won by truckers in 2005 after they refused to move containers for 47 days.
Truckers say they are caught between rising fuel, insurance and maintenance costs on the one hand and pay rate cuts on the other.
In the opening days of the strike more than 40 nonunion workers had their port trucking licenses suspended for alleged picket line violence.
“We are standing with those guys,” said Kang, stressing that truckers are determined not to return to work without their reinstatement. He insisted the truckers had done nothing wrong.
A return to work agreement was drafted by a federal Transportation Ministry-appointed mediator. Leaders of the two truckers’ organizations recommended strikers approve the agreement. But it was soundly rejected in separate votes March 8, by 100 percent of the nonunion truckers in the UTA and 98 percent of those unionized.
On March 17, Port Metro Vancouver issued an ultimatum to the striking truckers, threatening to revoke their port permits.
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