Container truckers voted unanimously Sunday to take strike action again if needed in response to the imposition of what they say are lower-than-promised rates to haul goods in and out of Port Metro Vancouver terminals.
Union and non-union truckers met Sunday in Surrey to discuss their next steps after talks Friday with Port Metro Vancouver’s CEO.
Truckers staged a 28-day strike last March that ended on government promises to reform the rate structure to halt rampant undercutting and stabilize the industry.
The province passed legislation in October to set minimum rates but only revealed them Dec. 15.
“They didn’t live up to their end of the bargain,” said Paul Johal, president of the Vancouver container truckers local of Unifor. “It was supposed to put money in our pockets but they’re taking money away from us.”
He estimates the shortfall on rates will add up to $50 a day less for employee drivers and $150 to $200 less for owner-operators.
Johal said truckers want a new meeting with federal and provincial government representatives to address their issues.
“If nothing happens we’re going to look at another shutdown – that’s the only choice we have left.”
Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director for Unifor, said both union and non-union drivers are “very disappointed” with the rates and said the province has effectively created new rate classes not previously envisioned with the effect of lower overall pay.
“We don’t want to go on strike but a deal is a deal,” McGarrigle said, noting Unifor members are still in a legal strike position.
The rate structure is complex, with different amounts for employee drivers versus owner-operators, options of paying per trip or per hour, minimum callout rates and rates for “off dock” movement of containers between points other than terminals.
Another concern is a new Port Metro Vancouver rule that as of 2019 only trucks less than 10 years old can access container terminals.
McGarrigle said federal officials have promised to review that change, which he said would be “punitive and discriminatory” because truckers would be forced to buy new vehicles more often.
Other changes made by the port and province are to bring a new licence system and reduce the number of trucks allowed to serve port terminals.
But McGarrigle said the new rate structure is the key sticking point, predicting it will mean continued industry instability.
Provincial government officials could not be reached for comment.
A transportation ministry release said the rate structure will provide “fair wages” for truckers to halt undercutting and delivers other improvements.
“It is a complicated situation and it has been hard to find a solution that pleases everyone,” it said.
Port Metro Vancouver spokesman John Parkert-Jervis said the port is proceeding to implement the new licence system.
“Planned reforms to the container trucking sector that serves Port Metro Vancouver are designed to bring stability to the port and a level of sophistication not seen in other ports,” he said.