MONTREAL — “We’ll stay out as long as we need to,” to force the excavation bosses to sign a contract, Jasvir Dhaliwal told the Militant April 16. Some 1,500 truck drivers who have been out on strike in the Greater Toronto area since March 21 are fighting for higher rates that they can live on, stronger safety measures, workers’ rights and respect from the bosses.
“The biggest issue is just surviving right now,” said driver Sarjbit Singh. Costs for diesel fuel, parts and insurance have skyrocketed. They’re so high, “we can’t survive” on what we’re paid, he said.
The truckers are fighting for an increase in rates to 130 Canadian dollars an hour ($103), as well as a standard rate for all truckers in the construction industry. Rates now vary enormously, with some truckers paid as low as CA$65 an hour. And the truckers are not guaranteed any minimum amount of work.
Dhaliwal, a leader of the Ontario Dump Truck Association, said that the bosses’ umbrella organization, the Associated Earth Movers of Ontario, is insisting on a verbal agreement, not a signed contract, claiming that the truckers’ association is not a recognized union.
“We agreed to a verbal agreement after strikes in both 2007 and 2013,” he explained. “But we found that without a signed contract we had no way to make sure” the bosses lived up to the agreed rates or respected the truckers’ rights.
The dump truck drivers are convinced that they’re in a stronger position this time, since truckers who haul sand and gravel for producing ready-mix concrete for construction just won a 20% wage increase through their own strike.
“Other truckers are standing behind us in our fight,” Dhaliwal said. He described a recent joint meeting of the Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association, which organizes the sand and gravel haulers; Ontario Dump Truck Association; and the AZ Canadian Truckers Association, the long- and short-haul truckers, where they discussed the need for united action.
“We have close to 90% of the industry shut down,” Inder Singh, an owner-operator, told the Militant. “We’re not backing down. We’re staying out until we get a signed contract.”