The unionized and non-unionized truck drivers, which service the four container terminal at Port Metro Vancouver, have been off the job for several weeks now, demanding better wages and shorter wait-times to pick up loads.
The B.C. Federation of Labour issued a call to action in support of Unifor late Thursday.
“We are calling for a mass demonstration Friday, March 21 at noon at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver,” said B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair.
“It is outrageous that governments are willing to destroy the livelihoods of these drivers by banning them from working at the port forever. Truckers are simply standing up, legally, for the right to make a decent living.”
Earlier this week, the B.C. government announced it was preparing legislation to force unionized truckers back to work and the Port warned that it would not be renewing old licenses or awarding new ones to truckers who did not show up for work.
Port Metro Vancouver president Robin Silvester said many drivers have since returned to work.
"Following yesterday’s clear actions by Canada, B.C. and Port Metro Vancouver to protect the economy, we are seeing significant truck activity at Port Metro Vancouver terminals," said Silvester late Thursday in a statement.
"The volume of container truck transactions March 20 was nearly 40 per cent of normal. It is the highest level since the trucking disruption began."
Unifor says deal was there
Trucker Ravinder Garcha wonders why hard-ball tactics are taking the place of negotiations.
"We are sort of being bullied and pushed into doing something we didn't want to do in the first place," he said.
"What we wanted to do was sit down, negotiate — talk with the government and the port."
Unifor's Gavin McGarrigle claims there was a deal, but shipping interests killed it.
"We thought we were getting close. We had a recommended deal that all of our bargaining committee signed and recommended to the employers," he said.
"And they told us, as soon as the back to work legislation was out there, that all of a sudden the employers got cold feet because the shippers told them not to agree to anything."
Back-to-work legislation coming
Meanwhile the B.C. government continues to prepare back-to-work legislation that will apply to about 250 unionized drivers who went on strike March 10.
The province says the legislation, which could be introduced as early as Monday, includes a 90-day cooling off period.
Non-union truckers aren't affected by the legislation, but they must be licensed by the port to operate — licences the port is threatening not to renew if they don't report for work.
Port Metro Vancouver is the country's busiest port and the strike by truckers has been impacting $100 million worth of goods every day.
The strike started February 26 when non-union container truckers withdrew their services. They were joined by unionized drivers in early March.
The truck drivers are demanding standardized rates of pay across the trucking sector to prevent undercutting and a reduction in wait times at the port.