03/10/2014 10:22 EDT | Updated 05/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Unionized truckers join pickets at Port Metro Vancouver

Up to 400 unionized truck drivers are joining more than 1,000 non-unionized truckers at pickets and protests outside Port Metro Vancouver container terminals on Monday morning, after their union voted Saturday to reject a mediated back-to-work plan.

The main site for the truckers' picket on Monday morning appears to be the Deltaport terminal south of Vancouver, but at least a dozen truckers set up a picket outside the terminal near downtown Vancouver.

Port officials said security has been increased at all four container terminals.

"Facing the prospect of continued disruption of port operations by disgruntled container truckers, Port Metro Vancouver is taking immediate steps to enhance the safety of the port for working truckers," said a statement released by the port on Sunday.

According to Port Metro Vancouver as many as 2,000 trucks move about $885 million worth of cargo every week in and out of the four container ship terminals.

Vincent Uy, who owns a food distribution centre, says consumers might not notice anything immediately, but if the pickets stay up, costs of some items may rise.             

"I don't like to say devastating, but it will hurt us," he said. "[If] we cannot fill the orders, there are no sales. If there are no sales, there's no money to be made. It affects the bottom line."           

Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director​ of the Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association’s, said 98 per cent of the more than 300 unionized members voted to reject the tentative return-to-work agreement drawn up by mediator Vince Ready on Thursday.

"This will have an immediate impact on the ports, because there won't be a lot of container truck traffic moving — this is almost 50 per cent of the traffic," McGarrigle said.

The union says the average rate of pay for truckers moving containers to or from Port Metro Vancouver is $15.59 an hour, whereas the average rate of pay in the B.C. trucking industry is $23 an hour.

"The immediate economics of the situation for our members is just intolerable," he said after the vote. "That's why they gave us the result they did."

The union is demanding increased pay rates that would be standardized and enforced across the trucking sector to put an end to undercutting.

Union joins non-unionized members

The Unifor-VCTA members already voted in favour of a strike on March 1 and had threatened to walk out at noon Thursday, but they agreed to discuss their outstanding issues after Ready was appointed by federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

The port said it was already feeling the effects of work stoppages begun by some non-unionized truckers — effects that will be worsened when the unionized truckers join the job action.

Port Metro Vancouver is suing the United Truckers Association, which represents at least 1,000 non-union truckers, over damage caused by what it calls disruptive protesting and property destruction.

In a statement of claim filed late last month, the port alleged the group damaged container trucks, threatened drivers trying to access port lands and threw rocks and debris at vehicles. The allegations have not been proven in court.

But Manny Dosange, spokesman for the United Truckers Association, says the lawsuit was a driving factor in the group's decision Saturday to remain on strike.

Dosange says there's no proof his members were behind the alleged offences, and any civil action should wait until a potential criminal investigation is complete.

Twitter: About a dozen truck drivers set up picket at corner of Commissioners Street at New Brighton Park.