Growing port crisis threatens business

by Canadian Shipper

A coalition of British Columbia business groups, the Western Canadian Shippers’ Coalition, has asked Ottawa to intervene in the dispute between some 1000 container truck drivers and the companies that hire them, one month into a Vancouver port truck strike that is threatening local and national business.

Ottawa has the authority under the Canada Transportation Act to order the drivers back to work. Ottawa could employ a rarely used section of the transportation act dealing with extraordinary disruptions, Ian May, chairman of the Western Canadian Shippers’ Coalition, said at a press conference yesterday.

According to the Retail Council of Canada the livelihood of nearly 155,000 small and medium-sized businesses across the country is affected, report the Financial Post and CanWest News Service.

While the big retailers are incurring extra costs and aiming for flexibility in their transport needs, the smaller retailers are worrying about layoffs.

The drivers, meanwhile, claim escalating costs have them earning as little as $50 for a 10-hour workday. The ensuing strike has choked the flow of goods through the port. Ships have already been diverted and it has been estimated that as much as $500-million in merchandise is piled on the docks, waiting to be distributed.

Two-thirds of the containers coming into the port are transported by truck; the remainder are moved by rail, but trains alone are unable to meet demand.

This past weekend saw gunshots fired at the trucks of a company that continues to transport containers. Early Saturday morning, eight trucks belonging to Pro-West Transport were sprayed with gunfire, causing $150,000 worth of damage, reports the Financial Post.

Some progress is reportedly being made with truckers who are members the Teamsters’ union, representing about 300 of the strikers.

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