By Alex Binkley

The Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association has issued a call to federal and Ontario cabinet ministers to intervene in a dispute that threatens to disrupt container shipments in the Greater Toronto Area. The request was sent to Labour Minister Kellie Leitch and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and their provincial counterparts Kevin Flynn and Steven Del Duca.

“We urge you to take immediate action to ensure that Canada’s cargo moves in an unimpeded manner during the action by independent trucker members of the Container Trucking Association of Ontario (CTAO),” says the letter from CIFFA President Jeffrey Cullen to the ministers.

CIFFA says it has not received a response from either level of government.

“Negotiations are stalling and we implore you to introduce an independent mediator into the labour conflict between CTAO members and container drayage carriers to end the dispute and to facilitate the resumption of business in the GTA,” Cullen added.

Meanwhile CTAO said it has signed an agreement with nine trucking companies to raise the pay of the container drivers. President Patrick Rhodin said the agreement was reached late on Sept. 16. He called the deal unprecedented in the North American container trucking industry.

CIFFA remains concerned about threats against drivers by CTAO supporters. It didn’t say whether the job actions against trucking companies would end.

CIFFA says its 250 members are worried about the economic impact of a work stoppage by independent truck drivers moving containers to and from customers’ facilities. Truckers who want to work are being threatened and intimated. The police have been told about incidents of vandalism and damage but no action has been taken, CIFFA says.

“Trade is critically important to the fragile Canadian economy, to CIFFA members and their customers – the importers and exporters,” Cullen says. “Our members and their customers are being severely impacted by this dispute.

“This action is not only impacting container terminals in the GTA regions but ocean carriers, rail carriers, trucking companies and so many more stakeholders including consumers all across the country,” he added. “The

GTA is but one link in the entire supply chain and goods move into and through this area to reach other parts of the country. Any delays in shipping and receiving goods means loss of business, and a resulting negative impact on Canada’s image as a reliable trading partner, not to mention the rising costs for companies and firms ready, willing and available to provide their services.

“Many of the local carriers and drivers that are willing to work are being prevented to do so for fear of reprisals,” he added. “We have received numerous documented examples of acts of vandalism to trucks and equipment as well as acts of intimidation. These acts have escalated in the past week of actions and are costing local companies thousands of dollars in damages.