Back-to-work legislation being prepared for striking Port Metro Vancouver truckers

WATCH: The provincial government has announced they’re ordering unionized port truckers back to work. Jas Johal has the story, and the impact the strike has had on businesses.

The provincial government has announced they’re preparing back-to-work legislation for unionized truck drivers who have disrupted operations at Port Metro Vancouver.

“Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s largest and busiest port, and this disruption is having a severe effect on our economy,” said Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt in a statement.

“I encourage them to go back to work, so we can start to implement the actions as soon as possible.”

The government is preparing back-to-work legislation for the unionized truckers represented by Unifor. Legislation could be introduced as early as Monday, March 24.

Unifor says it will make the dispute worse.

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“The minister can’t expect to stick his head in the sand and make this go away,” said Paul Johal, President of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association in a statement. “A negotiated settlement is the only sustainable solution.”

More than 1,200 non-unionized container-truck drivers with the United Truckers Association have been on strike since February 26, refusing to work due to low pay and long delays at port terminals.

They were joined on March 10 by approximately 250 unionized truck drivers, who voted 98 per cent to strike.

The combined effect has crippled the operations of Canada’s largest port, which handled a 135 million tonnes of cargo in 2013. The government says it’s costing the economy $885 million a week.

MORE: Businesses with goods at Port Metro Vancouver racking up daily storage fees

Last week, a 14-point Action Plan developed by veteran union negotiator Vince Ready, and endorsed by Port Metro and the federal and provincial governments, was presented to truckers.

However, union management hasn’t brought the proposal to membership, saying “there are some glaring holes in it” over the weekend.

The province is insistent the proposal form the basis of negotiations.

“I’m confident that the 14-point action plan that has been put in place is the right approach to resolving the issues raised by truckers. It’s imperative that they respond to the plan with an end to the work stoppage, so that both they and the port can get back to work,” said Stone.

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The provincial government can introduce back-to-work legislation for unionized workers through the Labour Relations Code, which allows them to implement a cooling off period.

However, the options Port Metro has for the non-unionized workers are more complex. If an agreement cannot be reached with the United Truckers Association, the federal government could individually suspend or terminate the licenses for truckers who continue job action, while finding .

Also unknown is how operational the Port will be in the short-term with close to 80 per cent of truckers still on strike.

WATCH: Keith Baldrey has details on how the two levels of government plan on bringing the truckers strike to an end.

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