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Two trucking companies serving Vancouver port threaten to strike Friday

Unifor drivers may walk off the job at Aheer Transportation and Prudential Transportation
A man walks between transport trucks waiting to deliver cargo containers at Port Metro Vancouver’s Center container facility in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday May 10, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.’s already hobbled supply chain could encounter another setback this week, if container truck drivers at two companies serving the Port of Vancouver follow through with a plan to strike on Friday.

Labour union Unifor says it has told Aheer Transportation and Prudential Transportation that almost 200 of their drivers will walk off the job later this week, if they aren’t offered better employment terms.

The workers are requesting better health, dental, and insurance benefits for all drivers, along with increased payments for time spent waiting for their trucks to be loaded and unloaded.

Unifor estimates the strike would impact about 170 trucks or about 10 per cent of the vehicles servicing the Port of Vancouver, which has been in the spotlight since mid-November storms flooded many transport routes in B.C.

The extreme weather left several of the province’s key transit arteries underwater, impacted railways and caused companies to increasingly turn to the skies and waterways for shipping goods.

The shift in transport has left the Port of Vancouver with a high number of cargo ships anchored and hampered from unloading.

Unifor believes a strike would threaten Canada’s overall port stability even further, but is necessary because it says business at both companies is booming, creating room to compensate workers accordingly.

“Prudential and Aheer’s largest competitor at Harbour Link can afford to treat Unifor members fairly and all of these drivers play a critical role in the supply chain of the lower mainland,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s western regional director, in a release.

“It would be a shame if two greedy employers caused further disruptions to supply chain stability for the small extra costs required to meet the pattern agreement.”

Companies that may end up impacted by the dispute have few other options that aren’t already overwhelmed or impacted by the storms.

Canadian National Railway Co. said on Monday that it had stopped some of its service along the southern B.C. freight corridor because rain was causing increased debris, washout and landslide activity.

CN diverted some rail traffic to the Port of Prince Rupert, but both northbound and eastbound traffic to and from Vancouver were still affected.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. was able to bring grain and fuel shipments to Vancouver last Wednesday for the first time in days.

Its rail corridor sustained heavy damage in some 30 locations between Vancouver and Kamloops, B.C. Getting such trips up and running again has been difficult because the company needs access to some CN tracks impacted by the weather.

—Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Exporters face logistical nightmare as CN yet to restore service to Vancouver port