VANCOUVER - The Canadian and British Columbia governments and Port Metro Vancouver announced late on Thursday a 14-point action plan to end a labor dispute that has severely impacted operations at Canada’s largest port.
The plan will ensure fair pay for truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver and also includes measures to help cut wait times at the city’s container terminals, the group said in a joint statement released by Transport Canada.
“The work stoppage of the last two weeks has resulted in severe impacts on the national economy, and with the immediate implementation of the 14-point action plan we expect an immediate and full return to work by truck drivers,” it said.
Hundreds of non-unionized container truck drivers walked off the job on Feb. 26 in a dispute over pay and services at Port Metro Vancouver, with unionized drivers joining them on the picket line early this week.
Unifor, the union representing the striking drivers, had no immediate comment on the planned reforms.
The two-week long work stoppage has crippled operations at the city’s container terminals, hitting the export of commodities like lumber and specialized grain products, and the import of consumer goods.
Rising Asian demand for Canadian products has led to a boom at Port Metro Vancouver, which handled a record 135 million tonnes of cargo in 2013, including about 25 million tonnes of containerized material. It is Canada’s largest and busiest port.
But the drivers say they are frustrated over increased wait times at the container terminals, which cut into their profits. They are paid by the load and do not make money while sitting in line waiting to load or unload cargo.
They are also demanding regulated and enforced pay rates, to help prevent trucking companies from undercutting one another.
Under the 14-point action plan, the Canadian government committed to “adjust the regulated trip rates within one month by 10 percent” and to expedite a review of current wage and fuel surcharge rates, with changes to be put in place by mid-2015.
On wait times, Port Metro Vancouver promised to extend operating hours, along with other operational changes, to help increase efficiency at the city’s terminal facilities.
The plan also calls for the development of a steerage committee to monitor the progress of the reforms, with its membership to include representatives of unionized and non-unionized drivers, the port and both levels of government.
The action plan, to be implemented by mid-June, comes after months of failed talks between the various parties. The strike is the third in 15 years at the port, including a six-week action in 2005 over similar issues.
By Julie Gordon