VANCOUVER Feb 25 Vancouver container truck
drivers have issued a 48-hour stop work notice to authorities at
Canada's busiest port over a long-running dispute related to pay
and service levels.
The United Truckers Association of British Columbia (UTA), a
non-profit group representing union and non-union drivers, said
many of its 1,400 drivers will walk off the job on Wednesday,
disrupting the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of
goods and commodities through Western Canada.
Spokesman Manny Dosange told Reuters the group has been
trying for months to get the Port Metro Vancouver and its
terminal operators to sit down with them to find a solution to
concerns over long wait times, penalty policies and low rates.
"It's not like we want a big paycheck or to get paid out,"
Dosange said. "All we're asking is to bring those container
prices up to a level where it's on par with the economy today
and, after that, we're looking for better service."
Dosange said container truckers used to make up to six trips
a day, hauling goods to and from the port, but a backlog now has
them waiting in line for hours on end to load and unload their
cargo. Many drivers now make just two trips a day.
"We're at the point where we're sitting in line, blowing
money for diesel," said Dosange, adding that drivers are paid on
a per-container basis. "If the trucks aren't moving, we aren't
He blamed the backlog on cutbacks at the Vancouver ports,
including reduced operating hours and staffing inefficiencies.
The group is also upset about penalties drivers face for
late or missed pick-ups, and said shipping rates have not gone
up since 2005, despite higher fuel costs and living expenses.
In a statement on Tuesday, Port Metro Vancouver blamed the
backlogs on extreme weather and said it is working on
infrastructure and organizational actions to boost efficiency.
It also said compensation was a matter between the drivers and
the companies that hire them.
Business is booming at the port, which handled a record 135
million tonnes of cargo in 2013 and foresees another strong year
in 2014 as trade with Asian markets continues to surge.
($1 = 1.1078 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Eric Walsh)