Vancouver truckers poised to strike on Friday

by Tara Deschamps THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C.’s already hobbled supply chain could encounter another setback this week if container truck drivers at a company serving the Port of Vancouver follow through with a plan to strike on Friday.

Labour union Unifor says it has told Prudential Transportation that many of its drivers will walk off the job later this week if they aren’t offered better employment terms.

The workers want better health, dental and insurance benefits for all drivers, along with increased payments for time spent waiting for their trucks to be loaded and unloaded.

Earlier Tuesday, Unifor reached an agreement with Aheer Transportation, where, along with Prudential, workers had been in a strike position.

Supply chain disruption

The Port of Vancouver has been affected by storms in mid-November that flooded many transport routes in B.C., disrupting supply chains.

The extreme weather left several of the province’s key transit arteries underwater, impacted railways and caused companies to increasingly turn to the skies and waterways for shipping goods.

The shift in transport has left the port with a high number of cargo ships anchored and hampered from unloading.

Truckers at the two companies had voted to strike if their employers didn’t match an agreement reached earlier this year with Harbour Link Transportation.

Harbour Link’s agreement is considered industry-leading because the company pays truckers $60 per hour after the first hour they spend waiting for their vehicles to be loaded or unloaded, said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s western regional director. For the first hour of waiting, drivers are paid nothing.

Prudential Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Companies that may end up affected by the dispute have few other options that aren’t already overwhelmed or impacted by the storms.

Canadian National Railway Co. said on Monday that it had stopped some of its service along the southern B.C. freight corridor because rain was causing increased debris, washout and landslide activity.

CN diverted some rail traffic to the Port of Prince Rupert, but both northbound and eastbound traffic to and from Vancouver were still affected.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. was able to bring grain and fuel shipments to Vancouver last Wednesday for the first time in days.

Its rail corridor sustained heavy damage in some 30 locations between Vancouver and Kamloops, B.C. Getting such trips up and running again has been difficult because the company needs access to some CN tracks impacted by the weather.

With files from Ross Marowits in Toronto