As at press time of this issue, container movements in and out of Port Metro Vancouver have been reduced to a trickle as unionized and non-unionized truckers continued to protest outside port container terminals. Picket lines have been set up at different locations around Metro Vancouver. Containers are still moving in and out of the port by rail. However, exports could be delayed if the strike action continues for a long period of time. Imports and empties are severely impacted and delays to and from customs are increasing. Imports are impacting space available for exports.
Meanwhile, Port Metro Vancouver has recently released a number of position papers to help clarify its position. Excerpts of these papers follow below:
About 3,000 different vessels arrive in a Lower Mainland port every year, many of which are ships loaded with containers full of goods. Container terminals lease Port Metro Vancouver lands and service docked ships, unloading and loading containers. They include Vanterm and Deltaport, operated by Global Container Terminals, Centerm operated by DP World, and Fraser Surrey Docks. Containers are moved to and from container terminals by rail and by truck. Approximately 50 per cent of containers come directly in and out by rail, and 50 per cent move by truck. Trucking companies contract with shippers and employ either their own drivers or hire independent truckers (owner/operators) on an as-needed basis. Truckers can be trucking company drivers or owner/operators of their own trucks. They can be long-haul, short-haul or drayage truckers. Drayage truckers transport goods over a short distance, such as from a dock to a distribution centre or a loading facility for further transport by another carrier.
The local container trucking, or drayage (short-haul), sector is highly fragmented and consists of about 150 privately-owned trucking companies, 800 owner/operators and about 2,000 trucks in total. Trucking companies and truckers contract with each other for services. Port Metro Vancouver is not involved in collective agreements or commercial arrangements with truckers.
About 80 per cent of truckers are covered under collective agreements. There are several trucking unions, such as Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association, which reportedly has about 250-400 members. There are also trucking associations such as the BC Trucking Association that represent the interests of truckers and trucking companies.
An approved Truck Licensing System license is required by any party wanting to access port facilities. Trucking companies and their drivers are covered under Full Service Operator Licenses, of which there are about 160. About 800 owner/operators have Independent Operator Permits to service the Port. Trucking companies and truckers agree on rates specified in the applicable collective agreement or, if non-unionized, in the 2005 Memorandum of Agreement (also known as “Ready Rates”).
The Government of Canada has mandated that rates for container truck trips to, from and within Port property be enforced. The Province of British Columbia investigates allegations of rate undercutting and unions are responsible for resolving rate-undercutting allegations within their own membership.
A subset of truckers licensed by Port Metro Vancouver has been disrupting port operations and restricting access to the Port for others to provide trucking services. The current disruption to port operations impacts about $885 million worth of cargo per week.
Questions and answers:
Is Port Metro Vancouver in negotiation with protesting truckers?
No. Port Metro Vancouver is not an employer or contractor of container truckers, nor has Port Metro Vancouver been present at meetings between truckers and Vince Ready. Mr. Ready was appointed by the federal government to review the trucking industry and address fundamental instability created by the highly fragmented nature of the industry.
Who is responsible for paying wages?
Truckers enter into agreements with trucking companies and are paid as per those agreements. Some truckers are employees of trucking companies while others are independent operators with their own trucks, who hire themselves out as needed. Some are paid per trip, others by the hour. Truck remuneration rates may be as set out in a collective or employee agreement or by a contractual agreement between a trucking company and a trucker. Trucking companies are required to pay non-union independent owner/operators a minimum rate set out and agreed to by truckers in 2005.
Who enforces the payment of wages?
Complaints of undercutting by truckers and trucking companies are common in the industry because it is highly fragmented and many drivers lack power to demand increases in wages, or increases in rates. The provincial government funds an audit program run pursuant to Port Metro Vancouver’s Truck Licensing System. The audit program is responsible for investigating rate complaints and making recommendations to Port Metro Vancouver. The Port posts related decisions on its website.
What is Port Metro Vancouver’s position on truckers’ wages?
The Port agrees truckers should be able to earn a fair living and realizes this is not always the case. However, ultimately the Port has no direct control over wage agreements or contract rates as it is not the employer or the contractor.
Why is Port Metro Vancouver suing the UTA?
In the furtherance of its protest, UTA members and supporters actively impeded the flow of traffic attempting to access Port Metro Vancouver jurisdiction, through unlawful acts, including physical interference, threats and acts of vandalism. Those actions were causing significant economic harm to Port Metro Vancouver, port tenants, operators and, ultimately, Canada itself. Those damages may be as much as $885 million per week. As the behaviour was unlawful, the Port launched a lawsuit to seek recovery of losses and obtained an injunction preventing the unlawful activities from continuing.
The truckers are saying they will go back to work if the lawsuit is dropped. Is Port Metro Vancouver prepared to do that?
Protestors, through their unlawful behaviour, have caused significant economic harm to Port Metro Vancouver and other stakeholders. While Port Metro Vancouver’s first priority is to ensure efficient operation of the port, it cannot speak for other injured parties. Nor can Port Metro Vancouver allow the wrongful actions of a few to put the well-being of the many at risk, without consequences. To do so would only invite future similar disruptions. Any further discussion of specifics around the lawsuit itself or possible terms of settlement should be left in the hands of the lawyers.
What has the federal government asked Vince Ready to do? Why isn’t Ready brokering a deal on wages?
Mr. Ready has been asked to conduct a review of the container trucking industry as a start to addressing the systemic problems that are responsible for many of the truckers’ concerns. He is taking his direction from the federal government.
What are historical and current wait times?
At present, about 63 per cent of trucks are waiting less than one hour, which is acceptable. About five per cent are waiting longer than two hours, and we are working diligently with terminal operators to improve the situation. A summary of historical wait times and more detail and current statistics on wait times are available at www.portmetrovancouver.com/docs/default-source/ABOUT-Media/terminal-turn-time-performance.pdf?sfvrsn=2 and www.portmetrovancouver.com/en/portusers/landoperations/trucking/container-truck-efficiency
What is Port Metro Vancouver doing to improve wait times?
• Expanded use of GPS to track efficiency,
• Implementation of the Terminal Gate Efficiency Fee program which requires container terminals to pay $30 per transaction for any port terminal transaction by a trucker that exceeds 120 minutes, as measured by Port Metro Vancouver’s GPS tracking efficiency system,
• Joint industry, Port and government funded research to identify technology-based solutions to improve sustainability,
• Container Drayage Leadership Team (CDLT), a forum for terminal operators and industry leaders to work openly to solve drayage challenges,
• An on-time incentive program to encourage container vessel operators to arrive on schedule and thereby contribute to overall supply chain consistency,
• Review of the Truck Licensing System that will lead to enhanced performance, safety and environmental standards,
• Infrastructure improvement projects designed to improve efficiency including Deltaport Terminal, Road and Rail Improvement Project and the South Shore Corridor Project.