NEWS

Port Metro container truckers demand new commissioner resign

02/21/2015 08:03 EST | Updated 04/23/2015 05:59 EDT
The union representing container truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver is calling for the resignation of the new container trucking commissioner over his allegedly close ties to port management.

Andy Smith is the president of the B.C. Maritime Employer's Association, which represents and bargains on behalf of employers at the port.

Smith was praised by B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone when he was appointed by the B.C. government earlier this month as someone with a wealth of experience and in-depth knowledge able to deliver stability to the sector.

But Unifor, the union representing container truck drivers, says Smith is the wrong choice because he's president of a group that represent employers.

Union director Gavin McGarrigle says Smith is in a conflict of interest.

"We need an independent and impartial commissioner and unfortunately Andy Smith doesn't meet that test because he serves as the president and CEO of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association," he said. 

"This is the same group that represents terminal operators who had to pay out millions of dollars in waiting time fees, as a result of the action plan. "You can't be a referee and play on one of the teams. The issues facing truckers are just too important to have this cloud hanging over it."

The call for Smith's resignation is the latest issue to threaten labour peace at the port.

A group of trucking companies has filed a lawsuit against Port Metro Vancouver questioning the fairness of the new licensing system.

The group includes 23 companies that lost their license under the new system following a review that determined there were too many trucking companies and drivers serving the port.

Last year, truckers walked off the job for a month, costing the economy millions.

New commissioner appointed in wake of unrest

The B.C. government introduced legislation to bring stability, which included hiring an independent container trucking commissioner.

As commissioner, Smith will oversee the truck licensing system and set the rate for drivers working the port. A legal team is in place to ensure he removes himself from any conflicting situations.

NDP labour critic Shane Simpson says it's not enough.

"It's simply not good enough to say I'll let my lawyers talk to me when there's a problem," he said. 

"Mr. Stone has responsibility for the trucking commissioner. Mr. Stone as the transportation minister put that position in place, and it's the provincial government's responsibility to ensure that the trucking commissioner is beyond reproach." 

Neither Stone nor Smith have commented on the union's demand Smith resign.

Smith assumed the role of president and chief executive officer of the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association in October of 2007. 

Before that, Mr. Smith was an adviser on labour, environmental and forest policy matters to the president of Interfor, a major B.C. forest company.

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