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Trade News

Each day TFO Canada publishes a sample of trade news on the Canadian import market along with any new, updated or changed regulations and legislations regarding international trade; countries in which TFO Canada offers services and on the export sectors which it promotes.


Last Ditch Effort Made to Avoid Vancouver Drayage Strike

Thursday, January 15, 2015 > 10:12:50

(Journal of Commerce – Mark Szakonyi)

Representatives of union and non-union drayage drivers serving Port Metro Vancouver will meet with British Columbia’s minister of transportation on Thursday in what drivers call a final attempt to avoid another strike at Canada’s largest container port.

Drayage drivers accuse the provincial government of altering a 14-point deal that ended a strike last March by including unfavorable rules relating to minimum drayage rates, the movement of goods between off-dock facilities and the minimum age of rigs. More than 600 union and non-union drivers in late December threatened to strike if changes were not made to the Joint Action Plan, which ended a strike that lasted several weeks last March. Unifor represents roughly 400 drivers at the port.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias said the union would finalize plans to strike if Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone doesn’t get on board with the terms agreed to in the March settlement.  Because Port Metro Vancouver is only directly involved in the licensing program and reservation system set forth in the Joint Action Plan, the port deferred responses to drivers’ complaints to the provincial government.

The port, however, said in late December that it was aware there was dissatisfaction with the plan, set to take effect Feb. 1, and urged compromise in order to avoid work disruptions that would hurt British Columbia and greater Canada.

"The province recognizes the important role truckers play in the efficiency of the supply chain and this new legislation establishes a rate structure that ensures truckers are paid fairly for their work," British Columbia provincial spokesman Kate Trotter said in an email.

The province's statement didn't address drayage drivers frustrations with what they say is an amended Joint Action Plan. But the province did warn that work stoppages at lower mainland terminals wouldn't be tolerated.

“Truckers went back to work based on an agreement signed off by the Premier and federal Minister Lisa Raitt’s office. If the government won’t uphold that deal, than we are not obligated to follow it either,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a statement. “We are now demanding what the government promised less than a year ago.”

The strike threat comes at a time when Canadian ports are being used by a growing number of U.S. shippers as a safe haven to avoid what has become chronic congestion at U.S. West Coast ports tied to the still-unresolved longshore labor negotiations. Port Metro Vancouver says it’s handling some cargo normally shipped through U.S. West Coast ports. Container volume in the first 11 months of 2014 was up 2.8% compared to the same period in 2013, according to Port Metro Vancouver statistics.

“We primarily service the Canadian market, but the port's container terminals do handle small amounts of U.S. cargo, which amounts to roughly 2% of the total U.S. West Coast volume, Peter Xotta, Port Metro Vancouver vice President, planning and operations, said in a statement.

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