Why are commitments to container Truckers incomplete?

Todd Stone, BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure speaks at an event at the Nordel Truck Scales. Photo: Ray Hudson
Todd Stone, BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure speaks at an event at the Nordel Truck Scales. Photo: Ray Hudson

Almost three years ago in March of 2014, the federal and B.C. governments and Port Metro Vancouver announced a 14-point plan to resolve an ongoing strike by container-truck drivers which has impacted the national economy.

A year ago, a new access licensing system developed by Port Metro Vancouver and finalized on Jan. 20 2015, recognized 68 companies with some 1,450 trucks from previous totals of 165 companies and 2,000 trucks.

In an exclusive interview with the Asian Journal, MLA Peter Fassbender said he was very involved even though it wasn’t his portfolio.

“I was the Education Minister at the time, but I represent Surrey Fleetwood, where there are lots of truckers. We were working to the fourteen points that were agreed, and BC Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, Todd Stone, put out a report card showing we (the Province of BC) had delivered on all fourteen points that were the provincial government’s responsibility. Where there is still dissatisfaction is with the Port (of Vancouver) over what it hasn’t done, and what the Federal government has not delivered on yet.”

Fassbender said that he and Minister Stone are advocating with the Federal government and the Port of Vancouver to make the changes that are their responsibility.

At the Punjabi Press Club meeting on Monday, Fassbender said he was asked about the trucking issue.

“When I was asked if the province had fallen short in making its commitments I said it was not true,” said Fassbender. “The province has lived up to its fourteen points, but not all of the issues have been resolved by the Trucking Commissioner yet, there’s more work to be done on the tags, there are more audits that need to be finished. The following day, Gagan Singh of the United Truckers Association, met with the Punjabi media and, I understand, accused the province of not living up to its commitments. Again, I say it’s simply not true.”

“We set up the Commissioner’s Office to make sure there is an impartial body that truckers can go to when they have complaints,” said Fassbender. “As a result there have been a number of audits of companies which have paid upwards of two million dollars in back wages. It’s not finished, there are still more audits to be done, but the promise is this: The commissioner’s office is independent, not subject to political influence and they’re going to make sure that the trucking industry and the truckers are protected.”

Fassbender said there have already been a number of audits done on companies to make sure they’ve been paying the drivers (close to sixty percent resolved) and close to two million dollars have been paid.
“There are some (audits) that are outstanding, that’s why the Commissioner has had additional resources committed by Minister Todd Stone, to do the audits. There have also been allegations of bribery and unfair practices, so Minister Stone has committed additional resources to investigate those allegations.”

“We are concerned when people say that unfair practices are taking place, that people are being mistreated,” said Fassbender, “and that’s why Minister Stone has sent a letter to Duncan MacPhail, the Container Trucking Commissioner.”

Fassbender underscored that the Commission is an independent office, “but the minister can direct him to look into issues that fall under the Act, and that’s what he has done as of today.”

“Some of the other things that I understand Gagan Singh talked about,” said Fassbender, “are the responsibilities of the Federal government, the Federal Minister of Transportation, and the Port of Vancouver. Honestly we are quite frustrated that they have not moved on those issues, as quickly as we believe they should have. We can’t force the federal government or the port to do anything because it is not our jurisdiction. But Minister Stone on behalf of the Province, has written a letter to the Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, and Robin Silvester, President & CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, advocating for the truckers for the changes that need to made for the wait times, the GPS systems and all of the things that fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal government and the Port of Vancouver.”

“I know that Minister Stone is putting in calls to them, but we can’t force anybody to move faster than they’re prepared to,” Fassbender said. “I want the truckers to know that we care about them. Any suggestion that we’re ignoring them, is patently untrue. I have worked with Minister Stone to get these issues to the table, to get the action plan put in place, and to continue to advocate for them.”

Fassbender said that although the problems involve jurisdiction issues, the truckers simply don’t care. They just want it fixed.

“Our problem is the stuff that is the purview of the federal government and the port, that we can’t fix. So as another level of government we’re telling them to get it done,” said Fassbender.  “The overriding message is we are on it, we are not sitting back, we’ve heard their concerns. We care about their concerns and we’re going to make sure we’re doing everything we can.”