Canada port drivers hope for deal ahead of back-to-work law

Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:53pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A three-week long strike by container truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver could be nearing an end, with union officials hopeful that a negotiated deal can be reached ahead of plans by the province to legislate drivers back to work early next week.

This as some of the non-union drivers, who walked off the job late last month, returned to their rigs on Friday, after the port threatened to start revoking licenses in an effort to get goods moving again at Canada's largest port.

"We'd like to get a negotiated resolution and hopefully get our members back to work as soon as possible, by Monday, if possible," said Gavin McGarrigle of Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union, which represents the unionized drivers.

He added that the union has reached out to government and employers, but no official talks have been set.

A deal would be good news for companies that depend on the port to ship product to customers around the world, especially lumber producers, who have been hit hard by the disruption.

If a last-minute deal is not reached, the provincial government is expected to introduce legislation next week to force the unionized drivers back to work.

Meanwhile, the non-union drivers say they will remain on strike until their concerns on wait times and pay are addressed, despite the threat of losing their licenses.

"This is a bully tactic to bring us back to work and it's not going to work," said Manny Dhillon, a spokesman for the United Truckers Association, a non-profit that represents many of the independent drivers.   Continued...