OTTAWA -- The Vancouver Port Authority will require trucking companies to sign up for an interim 90-day license permitting them to haul containers to and from the port, forcing a temporary end to the five-week strike by independent drivers.
The port announced Monday what it had said it would not do -- enforce an agreement calling for motor carriers to pay truckers higher rates proposed last week by mediator Vince Ready.
"We are going to institute an interim license, which will allow a return to work," said Gordon Houston, president and chief executive of the VPA.
The program will begin at Vancouver and nearby Fraser River Ports on Thursday. The strike by drivers that started June 27 has shut down local delivery of containers.
To move cargo on and off the docks at the three terminals at Vancouver and one at Fraser River, motor carriers will have to agree to the rate increase and other proposals made by Ready.
The carriers on Sunday rejected the proposal, saying rate increases in the second year were too high, and that there was no mechanism to prevent companies entering the market from undercutting higher rates. Drivers represented by the Vancouver Container Truck Association earlier had overwhelmingly approved the deal.
Employers were not pleased with the port's decision, but are expected to sign up individually for the interim licensing program. Bob Simpson, owner and co-owner of three companies, said after a long meeting that carriers would have to consider it further. "Our mind is not made up," he said.
The truckers had long argued for the port authority to ensure compliance with higher rates. But port officials rejected such a move, saying it wasn't permitted under laws governing their operations. But they changed their stance in the face of pressure from the Canadian government, in particular federal Industry Minister David Emerson, a former businessman in British Columbia. Emerson as former head of the Vancouver International Airport had instituted such a licensing system covering taxicabs.
The government will lift rules prohibiting price-fixing during the 90-day interim period, during which a task force will formulate a permanent solution on rate enforcement, and look into drivers' complaints about long lines at ports and dispatching by trucking companies.