The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 14      April 14, 2014

(front page)
Truckers win raises, payment
for waiting times at port in Canada
AP/The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck
Despite threats including back-to-work legislation, 1,500 truckers at Port Metro Vancouver, Canada, defeated government and bosses’ attempt to bust strike. Above, March 21 rally.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Standing up to government threats to force them back to work, 1,500 truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver won a victory here March 26 after shutting down the port for four weeks.

The agreement includes a pay raise for drivers who work for an hourly wage, a rate hike for owner-operators who are paid by the load, and for the first time compensation for long waiting times.

“We’ve had problems for years with long waiting times to unload our trucks, low rates and rising fuel and maintenance costs but nobody listened to us,” Jas Power, an owner-operator, told the Militant at a March 27 mass membership meeting of the United Truckers Association. “We finally made them listen.”

The agreement was signed by trucking companies, the port authorities, and the federal and provincial governments with the Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, an affiliate of the Unifor union, and the United Truckers Association, which is not officially recognized as a union. The UTA represents about 1,200 drivers, but includes many Unifor members as well.

During the walkout truckers remained firm despite the introduction of back-to-work legislation by the British Columbia government, court injunctions against picketing and suspensions by the port of dozens of driver’s licenses and permits.

“They kept threatening us,” a driver who did not want to give his name said. “We knew they had to settle with us. They were losing too much business. Even if they only fired one guy nobody was going back.”

In a March 25 editorial entitled “Enough Already with the Vancouver Port Strike,” the Globe and Mail, Canada’s main daily newspaper, complained that the strike “is severely hampering Canada’s ability to export across the Pacific to Asia. … [T]he loss to the Canadian economy was estimated to be $885-million a week.” (US$801 million.)

The government soon dropped its back-to-work bill and the port agreed to restore all suspended truckers’ licenses. The truckers had insisted this was a precondition for any back-to-work agreement.

“The main gains are on wait times,” owner-operator John Rodrigues said.

“Before we could get $42 a load and wait four or five hours without any pay for waiting,” said Mohinder Dhaul, a Lally Brothers driver. Now, truckers will be paid $50 for the first 90 minutes they have to wait, $25 for each additional half hour up to two-and-a-half hours, and $20 for each half hour after that. They will also get a 12 percent increase in the rate for each container.

Unifor British Columbia Director Gavin McGarrigle told Truck News that owner-operators are supposed to get between $100 and $180 per container, according to a 2005 settlement, but that the companies have gotten around this with “a huge explosion in what they call company drivers, which are supposed to be hourly paid drivers.” Some 54 percent of those drivers are paid by the trip, he said, but at less than the official container rate.

Under the agreement hourly drivers will be paid $25.13 an hour their first year at work and $26.28 after that.

Ranjit Chahal, a driver for AC Transport who has been working at the port six months, said he was getting $18 an hour before the strike. “I’m very happy,” he said. “Now I can make enough to live on.”

Power said that the unity between the union and nonunion truckers, owner-operators and company drivers was key to their victory. “We stayed strong and we won our rights,” he said. “I’m very proud of that.”

Negotiations will continue on outstanding issues for 90 days through a government-appointed mediator.
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Workers, peasants join one-day strike in Paraguay
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