No end in strike for Vancouver port truckers
The Canadian PressSunday, March 16, 2014
VANCOUVER - There will be no immediate end to a trucker strike that has crippled operations in Vancouver-area ports for weeks after weekend talks between government and drivers failed to make progress.
Manny Dosange, who represents more than 1,000 non-union truckers, said government officials were unwilling to negotiate during their meeting Sunday.
"They do not want to talk at this time," said Dosange. "It's basically a take-it-or-leave-it deal."
"We're at a stalemate," he said.
Gavin McGarrigle, who represents 400 union truckers, said the government was unwilling to answer any questions or clarify what he called a vague deal offered to workers.
"We were told that the government was not prepared to negotiate," said McGarrigle. "They told us they were not prepared to answer any of the questions that we had."
The dispute has largely focused on issues relating to pay, including the truckers' wages and the amount of unpaid time they spend waiting for cargo at container terminals.
The unionized truckers went on strike earlier this month, joining a thousand non-union drivers who walked off the job in February.
Port officials estimate the strike is affecting about $885 million worth of cargo per week, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has deemed it a threat to the economy.
The dispute has been fraught with drama.
In late February Port Metro Vancouver filed a lawsuit against non-union truckers, alleging that protesting workers were disrupting port operations and damaging property.
Non-union truckers said it was unclear if the perpetrators were part of their group, and that they were co-operating with police to resolve the issue.
Non-union truckers have called for the suit to be dropped because no charges related to the incidents have been laid.
The allegations haven't been proven in court.
A tentative agreement with the government fostered by a federally-appointed mediator was rejected over a week later.
Meanwhile, CN Rail obtained a temporary court injunction last week ordering striking truckers not to interfere with the company's operations at a container yard in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver.
The rail company filed a lawsuit earlier seeking a permanent injunction and damages.
The lawsuit alleges striking workers have been blocking traffic to the facility and intimidating other drivers.
Both union and non-union truckers have denied any wrongdoing, and no allegations have been proven in court.
Port Metro Vancouver, which is Canada's largest port, leases government-owned land and terminal space to private operators.
The port is made up of a collection of facilities throughout the Vancouver region and the strike has affected the port's four container terminals.
The striking truckers are not employed directly by Port Metro Vancouver, but rather are typically either independent contractors or sub-contractors working for shipping companies.