A strike by more than 1,200 unionized and non-unionized drivers at Port Metro Vancouver's four container terminals initially brought truck traffic to a standstill, but the port said last week activity was back up to about 40 per cent of normal. The strike hasn't affected the half of the port's cargo that moves by rail.
Raitt said Tuesday the increase in truck traffic indicates steps taken by the government and the port to resolve the dispute are working.
"We do believe that the 14-point plan facilitates the ability for the truckers to know that their issues will be dealt with," she said after an event in Washington.
Raitt also said veteran labour mediator Vince Ready is prepared to facilitate discussions, but truckers have to return to work first.
Ottawa, the B.C. government and the port put forward a 14-point plan on March 13 that was designed to address the truckers' concerns. The plan included rate increases and compensation for time spent waiting at the port.
The proposal was quickly rejected by the striking truckers.
The union representing several hundred truck drivers accused Raitt of refusing to answer phone calls to discuss potential changes to the plan. Unifor's national president, Jerry Dias, said Raitt is picking a fight with workers instead of trying to work something out at the bargaining table.
"We can live with the 14 points, but we are going to modify four of them in order to fix this thing once and for all," Dias said in an interview Tuesday.
"We want a long-term solution and they don't want any part of it. It's going to be their way or the highway."
Truckers are demanding shorter wait times at the port and standardized rates of pay across the sector to prevent undercutting. The government plan includes a 10 per cent rate increase within 30 days. Truckers waiting at the port terminals will also receive $25 per trip if they have not been given a container within two hours.
Dias said the union wants the rate increase to be set at 15 per cent, and it wants the wait-time fee to start after one hour and increase as time passes. The union also wants Ready to have the ability to make binding recommendations, said Dias.
Raitt declined a phone interview on Tuesday. Transport Department spokeswoman Jana Regimbal said in an email the truckers are under provincial jurisdiction and are not federally regulated.
The B.C. government introduced back-to-work legislation on Monday that would force about 250 unionized truckers to return to their jobs or face heavy fines for not complying.
The back to work legislation only applies to the unionized truckers. The dispute also involves more than 1,000 non-unionized workers who walked off the job in late February.
The port has also said truckers who aren't at work won't have their licences renewed.
Dias would not comment on what the unionized truckers will do when the back-to-work legislation is passed into law, saying only that they will "cross that bridge when we get to it."
However, he said he expects the non-unionized workers will continue striking.
"So there's no solution here unless the federal government comes to the table, Lisa Raitt comes to the table, we get the two levels of government, we get the union, we get everybody in a room, we seize Vince Ready to make all the recommendations and then it becomes final and binding," he said.
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