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Truckers reject Vancouver port deal: strike to begin Monday

After more than 18 months of failed negotiations, Unifor-VCTA members voted 100 per cent in favour of a strike on March 1

Unionized container truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver have voted to reject a tentative deal drawn up Thursday by veteran labour mediator Vince Ready, and are set to go on strike Monday.

Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director​ of the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association’s, said 98 per cent of the more than 300 unionized members voted to reject the tentative return-to-work agreement. 

"The immediate economics of the situation for our members is just intolerable. That's why they gave us the result they did today," he said.

A combination of picket and protest lines will go up Monday morning at the entrances to port facilities and at employers' offices, he said.

"This will have an immediate impact on the ports because there won't be a lot of container truck traffic moving — this is almost 50 per cent of the traffic," McGarrigle said.

Paul Johal, president of Unifor-VCTA, says the truck drivers are concerned about long lineups and wait times at Port Metro Vancouver's facilities, which he said is costing the drivers money and leading to longer days.

“Our members have spoken: the deal was too little, too late,” Johal said in a written statement on Saturday.

The union is demanding increased pay rates that would be standardized and enforced across the trucking sector to put an end to under-cutting.

The union says the average rate of pay for truckers moving containers to or from Port Metro Vancouver is $15.59 an hour, whereas the average rate of pay in the B.C. trucking industry is $23 an hour.

The Unifor-VCTA members already voted in favour of a strike on March 1 and had threatened to walk out at noon Thursday, but agreed to discuss their outstanding issues after Ready was appointed by federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

About $885-million worth of cargo moves through the port every week, or about $46 billion a year, Raitt's office said Thursday in a statement on the dispute.

The port said it was already feeling the effects of work stoppages begun by some non-unionized truckers — effects that would be worsened with unionized truckers following-through with job action.