03/06/2014 12:58 EST | Updated 05/06/2014 05:59 EDT

Strike averted as container truckers in Vancouver reach tentative agreement

VANCOUVER - A strike by roughly 400 unionized truckers working at Canada's busiest port was averted Thursday, though non-union truckers who withdrew services at Port Metro Vancouver last month will remain off the job for a while longer.

The potential strike by members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association had threatened to cripple operations at four container facilities around Metro Vancouver.

But after a day of talks, representatives for both union and non-union truckers said a tentative agreement was reached with the help of veteran mediator Vince Ready.

"Because we've now reached this agreement that we'll be taking to our membership, as a sign of good faith, we will not be raising any picket lines over the next two days at the ports or anywhere else," said Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. Area Director for Unifor.

However, about 1,000 non-union truckers who walked off the job in February in protest will continue their job action until Saturday, when truckers have had a chance to review the proposal.

United Truckers Association spokesperson Manny Dosange says his members have been struggling financially, and they need more certainty that their concerns will be resolved before they call off the job action.

"Our people have taken out credit lines, second mortgages on their homes and borrowed money for diesel, and it's gotten to a point where it's so critical they don't have money to put diesel in the trucks," he told reporters.

"So they need some (assurance) that if they're going back to work, that they're going to have income coming in."

The union's collective agreement expired in June 2012.

Truckers are asking for better pay and standardized rates to prevent drivers from undercutting one another. They also want long delays at Port Metro Vancouver to be addressed.

Earlier Thursday, Port Metro Vancouver said in a news release that operations have been seriously impacted due to protesting truckers.

Ready was brought in by the federal government just hours before the strike deadline issued by Unifor-VCTA expired.

The terms of the agreement reached on Thursday were not disclosed, though both McGarrigle and Dosange said they were looking forward to positive change.

"We're going to work together to make sure the issues facing container truck drivers are resolved once and for all," said McGarrigle.

The federal government also appointed Ready to conduct an independent review of trucking operations at the port and to provide recommendations aimed at resolving the labour issues to the provincial and federal governments by the end of May.

Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest port and trades $172 billion in goods annually.

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