| VANCOUVER, March 1
VANCOUVER, March 1 Unionized container truck
drivers at Canada's largest port voted on Saturday to join a
strike by their non-unionized colleagues, who walked off the job
on Wednesday over a long-running dispute about pay and services.
Unifor, which represents about 400 container truck drivers
at Port Metro Vancouver, said its drivers voted overwhelmingly
in favor of joining the four-day-old work action. The unionized
workers must give 72-hour notice before walking off the job.
Both groups are demanding that the port streamline
operations to improve wait times or pay drivers a fair hourly
wage while waiting. They are also asking for better,
standardized pay rates to discourage under-cutting.
"Container truckers, like workers across this country, make
the economy work," said Unifor's national president, Jerry Dias,
in a statement. "They deserve to be compensated fairly for their
role in generating wealth, but if workers can't share in that
wealth, we'll help shut that port down until they get it."
Rising Asian demand for Canadian products has led to a boom
at Port Metro Vancouver's facilities, which handled a record 135
million tonnes of cargo in 2013, including about 25 million
tonnes of containerized material.
Containers are used primarily for the export of lumber, wood
pulp and specialized grain products, and the import of household
goods and construction materials.
Both Unifor and the United Truckers Association of British
Columbia (UTA), a non-profit group representing union and
non-union drivers, have been in talks with the port authority
for months over concerns that long wait times at the port were
costing drivers money. Most truckers are paid by the load and do
not make money while sitting in line.
Port Metro Vancouver has said it is working on new
infrastructure and practices to improve wait times at its
facilities, and blamed some of the backlog on extreme weather.
On Friday, the port moved to legally block protesting
truckers from disrupting operations, after complaints of threats
and intimidation, including an incident of possible vandalism
caught on security cameras.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)