Paul Johal, President of local VCTA Unifor committed their support for the container truckers at Tuesday’s meeting. Photo Ray Hudson
Paul Johal, President of local VCTA Unifor committed their support for the container truckers at Tuesday’s meeting.  Photo Ray Hudson
Paul Johal, President of local VCTA Unifor committed their support for the container truckers at Tuesday’s meeting.
Photo Ray Hudson

Emotions raw as Truckers seek answers from PMV on the cutback criteria

by Ray Hudson

Anger, Frustration and Shock were three of the raw emotions running through the 600 plus container truck drivers and company owners gathered at the Grand Taj on Tuesday night to talk about the devastating news that almost 200 companies and 600 drivers were not selected to continue providing service to Port Metro Vancouver (PMV).

As of   February 1, they will be shut out of the port. Companies and owner operators are left holding the bag on mortgages on vehicles, leases and other bills that they won’t be able to pay. Some that were cut out have been servicing the port for over twenty years. Some of the companies had 100% of their business with the port and will be left scrambling for other work if they can find it.

Major Boparai with Olympia Trucking summed it up. “They sent an email last Friday saying these company’s are approved and these are not approved. First we are asking for the reason we are out, secondly what are the criteria for deciding which company should be there. The guys went to the Port Metro Vancouver office Monday and they (PMV) denied answering them, so there’s something fishy going on. They need to give them a proper answer. On Feb 1 there will be 600 drivers out of work, 600 trucks, so you can add in another two to three hundred people who are doing the office jobs, dispatchers, accountants and so on.”

A number of speakers in both Punjabi and English spoke to the group, including Paul Johal, President local VCTA Unifor who assured the crowd that the union was with them, but couldn’t participate in any action until their deadline with PMV passed on January 29. Meeka Sangehra of the UTA spoke at length in Punjabi.

Also speaking were a number of politicians including MLA Harry Bains, former Federal MP Sukh Dhaliwal, and Federal Conservative candidate Harpreet Singh.

During the evening there were calls for action. At one point someone called out “Shut them down” and there was some discussion over job action. Ultimately there was a call for truckers to meet Wednesday morning at the Highway 91 pullout so they could form a protest convoy.

Michelle Mann is a dispatcher for Safeway Trucking, a company that was cut:

“We’ve all got spouses, mortgages, children. Why are truckers any less or any more than anyone else? We all received an email last Friday about 3:30 saying the list of companies that are approved, this is the list of companies that will be running in the ports as of February 1st and that was it.

When asked about the selection criteria she responded,

“We don’t know yet. They (PMV) said they have an application process, and sent us a list you had to send information about your trucks, information about your drivers, history of your company, basically a criteria list. So we all met the criteria list otherwise we wouldn’t have submitted the application. There were even some parts where they said there was additional criteria that might help bump you up. From what I understand there was a score system where they compared the companies to each other.”

She was asked if she knew about some companies were chosen that had never done any work for the port.

“There was rumour that a company, don’t want to say the name, that was given 400 tags. When I found out I asked my drivers if they’d ever seen that company in the port before. One said he’d been driving for years and thought he’d seen them maybe twice. They applied for 700 tags and were given 400. If this is true, then us who have been denied lost our tags to these other companies.

We’re willing to work with Port Metro Vancouver but we are saying that the way they did it is wrong. You don’t send an email out on Friday telling them they’re going to be out of work in a week. Some of these companies have been running for 10, 20, 30 years, that’s it. Everything they poured into it, their finances, everything is gone.”

Paul Johal, President of local VCTA Unifor was asked for his reaction to the PMV announcement:

“We’re quite choked about it and a lot of these guys have been in the industry for the last 25 to 30 years. All of a sudden boom there goes their licence, there goes their livelihood. We are all concerned about it.

I hope the government comes through. We’ve got our president from back east working on it with the federal government and talking with the provincial government. Hopefully we’ll get somewhere between now and Friday.

Johal said they were 100% committed to support for the UTA drivers and companies, but they (Unifor) met with PMV and the government over the fourteen points at issue and the PMV asked for two weeks to respond, which they agreed to.

“I know a lot of the companies are upset but they have to wait through January 29 before taking any action. If we haven’t heard anything from the government in two days we will be joining you guys,” said Johal.

In a statement Peter Xotta, Vice President of Planning and Operations for Port Metro Vancouver, said; unfortunately, this means not everyone who is currently licensed to access the port will be licensed going forward. We recognize this transition may be difficult. Port Metro Vancouver is offering a generous transition program to eligible owner operators, provided there is no disruption that impacts container movements to the port. The program includes a funding package and administrative assistance with scrapping or auctioning trucks no longer wanted. In addition, support for impacted individuals will be available through the Province’s WorkBC program, and the federal Service Canada program.

It continued in part: Companies were rated based on the criteria, and 68 companies representing 1,450 truck tags were approved. Debriefing meetings will be made available to companies with unsuccessful applications to discuss why applications were not approved, and offer guidance in the event the application process is opened in the future.
The full statement is available on the Port Metro Vancouver Website.

The protest convoy did go ahead at 8 am, Wednesday stressing a morning commute that was already interrupted by a fatal truck crash just south of the tunnel.

The convoy of trucks, estimated in the hundreds, made its way through Richmond and Vancouver but did not disrupt any port activities.