With back-to-work legislation coming into effect as early as Monday, striking container truck drivers have yet to decide how they’ll respond to the order.
As of Sunday, United Truckers Association spokesman Manny Dosange said truckers were still on the picket lines, and that no definitive plans have been communicated yet to the strikers.
Union officials at Unifor, meanwhile, say they expect a legislated end to the strike will not come until Tuesday at the earliest.
After 18 months of failed negotiations, unionized container truckers with Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association walked off the job two weeks ago in protest against industry undercutting and long waiting times at Port Metro Vancouver that they say cut into their pay. They joined drivers represented by the United Truckers Association (UTA), a group of both unionized and non-unionized truckers, who launched job action on Feb. 26.
As much as $885-million in cargo transits through the port weekly, half of which is carried by trucks.
Sawmills, unable to move timber, have said there will be layoffs if the port does not return to full operations soon.
With the growing economic impact of the job action, the provincial government said it was necessary to prepare the legislation, which includes a 90-day “cooling off” period, for 250 Unifor truckers. A violation of a back-to-work order usually means hefty fines for unions and individual employees. The port has also threatened to terminate licences if truckers don’t report for work.
“Legislating them back to work isn’t going to solve the problem,” Unifor B.C. area director Gavin McGarrigle said at a rally on Friday. “A 90-day ‘cooling off’ period is just going to get them hotter than ever. The question we have is: ‘Are the ports and the government serious about getting a sustainable solution?’ The only way to do that is a negotiated agreement.”
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the ministry intends on tabling the legislation on Monday. “With the opposition’s co-operation … we believe that we could go through all three readings and pass the legislation into law late on Monday. If the opposition, however, choose to be obstructionist, it’s more likely that it would take until late Wednesday to have the legislation fully enforced.”
Last week, the port, Transport Canada and B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation presented the truckers with a 14-point plan that included a promise to “adjust the regulated trip rates within one month by 10 per cent.” However, the truckers rejected it, taking issue with the fact they were not consulted in its creation.
The bitter dispute has raised allegations of bullying from all sides. The port has videos of protesting truckers apparently cutting brake lines and verbally harassing a driver who chose to work; B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair said truckers haven’t had a raise in eight years and many make less than minimum wage when expenses are factored in. At Friday’s rally, he produced a report into the labour dispute that claimed people who make the port function properly work 11 to 12 hours every day.
“This report says the highest pay is around $35,000 a year,” he told the crowd.
Hundreds of people attended the rally, including members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, the BC Teachers’ Federation, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Hospital Employees’ Union. Politicians including NDP leader Adrian Dix, Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby and Vancouver-Hastings MLA Shane Simpson were also present.
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