Business

Port strike begins to bite other industries, jobs

Transportation Minister Todd Stone says container port truckers can
Transportation Minister Todd Stone says container port truckers can't wait until a government action plan is fully implemented before returning to work.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Transportation Minister Todd Stone says workers in far-flung industries across B.C. are facing layoffs because of the continuing strike by Metro Vancouver's container port truckers.

"The stories are coming in fast and furious," Stone said Monday. "Canada's largest port cannot continue to be disrupted as it has been for the last 10 days."

Stone said 142 workers have been temporarily laid off at Aspen Planers in Merritt, because the mill has been unable to ship finished lumber by container.

And he said layoffs are also beginning or anticipated at various Lower Mainland manufacturers that can't get components they import – including one plant in Richmond – as well as at mines in the Kootenays and northeastern B.C. because of a lack of rail cars to ship ore.

"It's the British Columbia economy that's on the pointy end of the stick. It's primarily jobs in British Columbia that are being compromised today."

Stone defended a 14-point federal-provincial action plan – rejected by truckers Sunday – as one he believes will address their concerns.

Union representatives want more information and complained the two governments are refusing to negotiate.

Stone said the plan will take time to roll out and truckers must go back to work in the meantime.

"Waiting for full implementation of all 14 points before the port resumes normal operations is not an option."

Asked if Ottawa should legislate a return to work, Stone said he encourages federal officials "to consider any and all options they feel are appropriate."

Port Metro Vancouver has also signalled it could suspend or terminate the port access permits of truckers who refuse to get back behind the wheel.

Stone said the province is working as quickly as possible to implement the two of 14 action items that are within provincial jurisdiction.

The plan includes various reforms to raise rates or compensate drivers for unpaid wait times, deter rate undercutting and extend terminal operating hours into the evenings.

Achieving a deal is complicated because truckers don't technically negotiate with the port or the two governments, but with the 150 different trucking companies that actually pay them.

Listen to Todd Stone:

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