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B.C. port truckers being shortchanged: union

B.C. port truckers being shortchanged: unionStriking container truck drivers stand by in Vancouver, on March 21, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - Drivers servicing the country's largest port urged government on Monday to take swift action against trucking companies, which they say aren't living up to a deal hammered out last spring to end a strike.

More than 1,600 union and non-unionized truckers for Port Metro Vancouver went back to work in late March after negotiating an action plan that promised to improve job conditions.

Three months later they're still not getting paid what's owed, say representatives who met with two levels of government to request an order-in-council making rates legal and binding for workers across the sector.

Unifor director Gavin McGarrigle, who represents about 400 drivers, said companies are "thumbing their nose" at the 14-point action plan devised to get cargo flowing again after drivers walked off the job for weeks.

"They have their wild west mentality and they just think that if there's a loophole they'll jump through it as quick as possible," he told reporters after a nearly two-hour meeting with the federal and provincial transportation ministers.

"The trucking companies need to realize the days of game playing are over and its time to step up to the plate."

Workers don't want to withdraw services again, McGarrigle said, but noted members are still in a legal strike position.

Manny Dhillon, who represents about 1,200 members the United Truckers' Association of B.C., said drivers have become increasingly frustrated over rates owed since early April.

"They're pretty angry," he said, arguing 12 of the action plan's 14 points have not come to fruition. "It's really getting hard to calm people down out there."

The meeting was held two weeks after the representatives walked away from weekly two-hour talks that they contend were showing no progress, despite the March deal.

Even before Monday's meeting, a spokeswoman for the federal transportation minister said in a statement that Lisa Raitt has been working with her provincial counterpart to ensure "the necessary steps" are taken to pay truckers. No detail on when or how that might happen was provided.

The truckers say other issues that have yet to be resolved include an oversupply of trucks in the industry, truck licencing problems and a concern the auditing system is not independent from the port.

But they also say some improvements have been made, including the p[ayment of more than $1 million in waiting fees and the outfitting of fleets with GPS systems.

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