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Resolve truckers dispute now: B.C. minister

Resolve truckers dispute now: B.C. ministerA worker drives past cargo containers stacked beneath cranes at Port Metro Vancouver in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday March 13, 2014. More than 1,000 container-truck drivers have been on strike since February 26, refusing to work due to low pay and long delays at port terminals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's transportation minister says all sides in a truckers' dispute must resume discussions as ongoing job action affects other sectors across the province.

Todd Stone said Monday that some companies are temporarily laying off staff because they're no longer receiving goods from the four Port Metro Vancouver container terminals.

He said 142 people at a planer mill in Terrace are out of work until the dispute involving Canada's largest port is resolved.

"The stories are coming in fast and furious from communities all across British Columbia," Stone said, adding the lack of rail cars means ore cannot be shipped from the northeast part of the province, and mining operations are also affected.

Stone said the strike is affecting thousands of jobs beyond the 90,000 that are directly and indirectly involved in the strike that escalated 10 days ago to include both unionized and non-unionized truckers.

B.C. does not have jurisdiction over the federally regulated port, which Stone said typically moves $126 million of cargo every day.

Stone said he would be speaking with his federal counterpart and the infrastructure minister later Monday, when he was also scheduled to talk to a port official.

"The B.C. government believes that the concerns the truckers and other parties, including the port, have thrown on the table are valid," he said.

"British Columbians, and indeed Canadians, are counting on the federally regulated port and the truckers to get back to the table and to continue to discuss the issues and seek a resolution as soon as possible."

The estimated 1,400 truckers are on strike over rates, licensing and the long unpaid wait times for cargo at container terminals.

On Sunday, spokespeople for both non-union and unionized truckers said the government was unwilling to negotiate on a 14-point proposal offered to them last week.

The proposal, which is meant to lead to changes in a number of areas, including how truckers are paid, will take some time to fully implement, Stone said Monday.

In the meantime, he said both sides must immediately get back to resolving their issues because the work stoppage is hurting B.C. and Canada's reputation in Asia.

"It's doubly frustrating when it's our economy, the British Columbia economy, that's on the pointy end of the stick. It's primarily jobs in British Columbia that are being compromised today."

The truckers are not directly employed by Port Metro Vancouver, but are typically either independent contractors or sub-contractors working for shipping companies.

Last week, CN Rail obtained a temporary court injunction ordering striking truckers not to interfere with the company's operations at a container yard in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver.

The company alleged striking truckers blocked or slowed traffic to its facility and in at least one case intimidated a driver.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the port moved $127 million of cargo daily.

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