On the Picket Line

Toronto truckers end strike, win wage raise, improved conditions

By Steve Penner
May 23, 2022

TORONTO — Over 1,500 dump truck drivers in the Greater Toronto Area ended their six-week strike May 1, when they reached agreement with area bosses to set a standard hourly rate of 120 Canadian dollars ($93) an hour for bulk excavations for all owner-operators, CA$105 for sewer and water main work and CA$90 for road building.

Before the strike “it was the wild west,” Ontario Dump Truck Association representative Bob Punia told the Militant. “Contractors were paying rates as low as $65” and were able to play off one trucker against another to cut rates.

The agreement was reached with the Associated Earth Movers of Ontario and a number of its member companies. Negotiations continue with other contractors, including associations in sewer and water main work and in road building.

The Earth Movers agreed to end the practice of truckers not being paid for all the hours they work. The agreement also stipulates that truckers will be given a 15-minute paid break every four hours. While that’s required under Ontario labor law, contractors weren’t paying for breaks.

Jasvir Dhaliwal, an owner-operator and member of the ODTA committee, told the Militant that the agreement will hopefully end the practice of excavators overloading trucks.

Overloaded trucks are unsafe, and drivers can be fined CA$500 or CA$1,000, even though it’s the excavators who load the truck, he said. The dump truck association insists that if a truck is overloaded it’s the contractors who should pay the fine, not the truckers.

A number of the contractors agreed to build better truck ramps at excavation sites, Dhaliwal said. Unsafe ramps can result in a truck tipping over, especially if it’s overloaded. “This was putting truckers’ lives at risk,” Punia said.

The strike shut down over 90% of the job sites for six weeks, Dhaliwal said. The contractors “had to reach an agreement with us. They had no choice. Our members were prepared to continue our fight as long as needed.”

The agreement will help “ensure owner-operators finally get the respect and dignity they deserve,” Punia said, “thanks to the perseverance and determination of our members.” The challenge will be ensuring that individual contractors “abide by the agreement.”

“This fight strengthened” the dump truck drivers association, Inder Singh, an owner-operator and member of the ODTA committee, told the Militant. “Now, many more truckers are involved.”

The strikers got a lot of support. “It was very important to know that other truckers stood behind us,” Punia said. “The abuse truckers face is not just here in Toronto. It’s North-American wide. We’ve had calls from three different groups of truckers in the U.S. asking for our help.”