Surrey: The United Truckers Association (“UTA”) hosted its largest meeting in over five years on Sunday, May 12, as members showed up anxious for updates on recent provincial pay raises, activities by the BC Container Trucking Commissioner, and a number ongoing struggles with the Port of Vancouver.
The meeting was also significant as the first time since the inception of the Office of the BC Container Trucking Commissioner that officials showed up to speak directly to UTA members. Commissioner Michael Crawford provided detailed plans in English (and in Punjabi translation) on how enforcement was going, on his plans for tag management policies, and how recent provincial rate and remuneration changes would impact his auditing processes.
Local Surrey MLAs, as well as local radio hosts Harjinder Thind and Harjit Gill, were presented with plaques of appreciation for their efforts over the past year to secure the recently announced rate increases. Overall, it is estimated that Independent Operators could receive up to $1,000-$2,000 extra per month based on the boosted pay.
Led by Jagrup Brar, Minister Harry Bains and Garry Begg, Surrey MLAs were instrumental in serving as critical liaisons that facilitated negotiations between the UTA and the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Further, Mr. Thind and Mr. Gill were vocal advocates that helped the UTA spread the word about the organization’s positions, as well as hold government officials’ feet to the fire.
The strength that the UTA has gained in stature and influence was the most significant reason that Sunday’s meeting was so well attended, according to spokesperson Gagan Singh.
“The UTA’s ability to achieve a $25 per empty chassis leg fee was a huge breakthrough secured by applying pressure right up until the Government’s announcement, and our relationship with the Commissioner’s Office is stronger than it has ever been,” says Singh. “We are seeing more drivers attend and engage at our meetings because they are realizing the power that our organization has in setting policy, ensuring fair conditions, and protecting the economic interests of drivers.”
The one disappointment from the day was the attendance of three Surrey Member of Parliament (Randeep Sarai, Ken Hardie & Sukh Dhaliwal) who were once again unable to provide answers to a range of ongoing difficulties with the Port of Vancouver.
A lack of proper washrooms at terminals, facilitated harassment of drivers by CVSE on Port property, waiting time fees still not being received regularly, unfair and expensive terminal reservation fees, and no common reservation system as promised in 2014 are just a few of the issues where the Port of Vancouver is operating without any oversight by the Liberal government in Ottawa.
The fact that South Asian truckers are unable to have basic washroom facilities is a blatant form of discrimination that the UTA will not tolerate.
At one point, MPs admitted UTA members that the federal Minister of Transport was not listening to them.
This confession, combined with their total inability to be effective for truckers, means that the UTA is issuing a 48-hour ultimatum to the Government of Canada, adds Singh.
“Now that we have heard directly that the Minister of Transport is not listening to his own colleagues, we are demanding action within 48-hours on the number of issues we brought forward,” says Singh. “If our local Surrey MPS cannot secure contact for the UTA with the Office of the Minister of Transport, the UTA will be openly campaigning against all local Liberal MPs in the upcoming election.”
The UTA signed up hundreds of new members, and whether it is continuing to work with the Commissioner on tag issues, or demanding accountability from Members of Parliament, the organization is better placed to ensure action and results for our members.