Recent History – 1999
March 25, 1999
Mike Leschart, Daily News Staff
City grain elevators are feeling the effects of the Port of Vancouver grain handlers’ strike that has backed up Western Canada’s grain transport system.
The Pioneer, Agricore and Cargill elevators have had shipments cancelled by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), and Cargill manager Deanna Boyle said her location, which is nearly full, will definitely feel the effects of a prolonged strike.
“If we would be moving board grain like we normally are it would have played a big effect,” she said. “It’s going to get big if it carries on much longer.”
Both Agricore and Pioneer maintain a Thursday to Thursday shipping schedule, and both elevators have had shipments cancelled beginning this week.
While Agricore will move some grain to clear up old orders, staff confirmed, no new shipments will go to Vancouver. Shipping has been requested for next Thursday, but employees did not know whether it will be carried out.
A Pioneer employee said the elevator usually loads 12-15 rail cars a week, also on a Thursday to Thursday schedule. No shipments are scheduled for this week. The elevator is currently about three-quarters full.
Cargill manager Boyle said the elevator will continue to ship products other than CWB wheat, such as malts that go to Alberta. The elevator’s shipping schedule is Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Boyle said Friday’s CWB shipments have been cancelled. She does not know if cancellations will continue to next week.
“It all depends if the Canadian Wheat Board makes the call, and how bad the road bans get,” she said.
The province places a road ban on grain hauling from farms in the spring so highways aren’t damaged by heavy loads. Grain loads must be 70 per cent of their normal size.
Because of this, the supply to elevators is reduced, and the backlog created by the strike is less severe.
While a tentative agreement had been reached between the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) employees in Vancouver and the federal government, union members will not vote on the deal until April 6.
Until then, the union has agreed not to block grain shipments, but the terminal elevators are already backed up, causing backlogs in Western Canadian grain elevators.
The federal government passed back-to-work legislation this week in case PSAC does not ratify the deal, but union president Daryl Bean said members have not decided whether they will heed the legislation or wait until the deal is accepted.
The union will face fines of $100,000 per infraction if members are not at work and essential services are disrupted.