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Port of Vancouver truckers threaten to strike

Port of Vancouver truckers threaten to strike

A truck with a chassis attack drives at the Port of Vancouver.

Container truckers at two carriers serving the Port of Vancouver have voted to authorize a strike, threatening another major disruption at Canada’s busiest port as it recovers from the shutdown of rail service.

Drivers for Aheer Transportation and Prudential Transportation “voted overwhelmingly to strike if necessary” to secure a new agreement, their union, Unifor, said in a statement on Tuesday. The drivers are seeking health and dental benefits, and increased pay for waiting times. 

“Unifor truckers in this sector are fighting for the simple right to have health and dental benefits,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a statement. “Basic respect for your workers and their family’s health and safety is not an unreasonable request.”

A strike would affect about 200 of the roughly 1,700 drivers serving the port. It’s unclear when one might take place. The port is facing an enormous backlog of cargo from the shutdown of CN and Canadian Pacific’s rail service to Vancouver. As of Wednesday evening, 43 vessels were waiting to dock at the port. 

On Wednesday, CP trains arrived in Vancouver — carrying grain and fuel — for the first time since flooding and landslides led to the shutdown of a key portion of the railway’s line in British Columbia. CN was expected to resume limited service on Wednesday.

The port is no stranger to labor disputes involving truckers. In 2014, container operations slowed to a near-standstill after a two-week strike by about 400 unionized truckers.

While drivers from Aheer and Prudential represent a significantly smaller portion of port truckers, a strike could have a serious impact as the port handles the backlog from the rail shutdown coupled with existing record volumes this year.

Canadian labor expert Sara Slinn, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said while the ability of the truckers to disrupt the supply chain gives them leverage, the catastrophic flooding in British Columbia brings “a pretty high risk of direct government intervention.” 

“Port workers of all stripes have pretty significant bargain power right now, but at the same time, it really is a crisis situation in parts of the province right now,” Slinn told American Shipper. “I think it’s not an unreasonable argument that a strike would be a threat to the economy.”

Aheer Transportation and Prudential Transportation did not respond to requests for comment. 

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25 November 2021, 01:13