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Plan announced to end trucker strike

The federal and B.C. governments and Port Metro Vancouver have announced a 14-point plan to resolve an ongoing strike by container-truck drivers they say has severely impacted the national economy.

Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone and port president and CEO Robin Silvester said the plan released Thursday night will ensure drivers will be paid fair compensation, reduce wait times at container terminals and create an industry oversight committee.

But it was unclear how the truckers would respond to the plan, with one union, Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association, stating in an email that it was reviewing its contents.

"Nobody's called us, nobody has informed us of anything. We're hearing it all third hand," added Manny Dosange, spokesman for the United Truckers Association, which represents 1,000 non-unionized owner-operators.

He said his association is willing to look at the plan to see if the parties can resolve the dispute.

On Sunday, Dosange said a lawsuit launched by Port Metro Vancouver against the association was standing in the way of a deal. The port is taking action over alleged damage caused by what it calls disruptive protesting and property destruction.

The port is now expected to consult with the industry and plans to implement the reforms by June 15.

Among the 14 points is a promise by the port to "commit to terminating legal actions" not related to criminal activity and rescind licence suspension that are not related to criminal activity.

The federal government said it will adjust by 10 per cent and within one month the regulated trip rates for drivers and will expedite a review of wages and fuel-surcharge rates and implement the results by mid-2015.

"I have asked Port Metro Vancouver to implement the agreed upon action plan," said Raitt in a news release. "It is time to get the port working once again and we expect the trucking industry to do their part and immediately return to work."

Stone said the port is critical to the economy of B.C. and Canada, and he had warned that unless there is a quick resolution, the dispute will drive important business to the United States.

"I am confident that the joint action plan that has been put in place today will allow the truckers to return to work and the port to return to normal operations immediately," he said.

Silvester said the port supports the changes and intends to implement them quickly, in consultation with stakeholders in the trucking community.

"Our goal is to rapidly improve the truck licensing system to more effectively manage the trucking services marketplace, improve efficiencies and ensure there is effective compliance monitoring in place with respect to rates," said Silvester in the news release.

Last week, it appeared the strike by unionized workers had been averted, when Unifor announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the truckers' employers, but the workers overwhelmingly voted to reject the offer.

Unionized truckers then parked their rigs early this week and joined non-union truckers who walked off the job in what has largely become a wage dispute.

The port, provincial and federal government announced in the Thursday night news release that the work stoppage has "resulted in sever impacts on the national economy."

In fact, on the first day of the strike, the port's container terminals saw just 10 per cent of its normal truck traffic. Port spokesman John Parker-Jervis said on Wednesday that had improved to 15 per cent.

The strike at Canada's busiest port was the subject of meetings and conference calls Thursday at some boardrooms across the country.

 

The Canadian Press

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