Metro Vancouver transit talks collapse, job action by bus drivers due Friday

Marco Green
November 16, 2019

Transit workers and their employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC), continue to sit at an impasse as the union refused CMBC's offer on breaks and wages today.

Unifor officials, representing about 5,000 bus drivers, SeaBus operators and mechanics met into the evening on Wednesday with negotiators for Coast Mountain Bus Company, which manages the region's transit on behalf of TransLink.

However, both Vancouver Fire and TransLink confirmed that because of the overtime ban for Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) maintenance workers, the wires would not be fully repaired until Friday morning.

Earlier in the day, TransLink warned passengers to prepare for unpredictable disruptions in bus service on Friday after the union representing bus drivers announced the escalation of the ongoing job action.

The transit strike has been ongoing since November 1 and so far action has been limited to a uniform ban by bus drivers and an overtime strike by maintenance workers.

They plan to continue the overtime ban next week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with the possibility of further overtime bans going forward.

TransLink is telling bus riders to prepare for disruptions throughout the day, and estimates that the ramped-up job action will reduce bus service by up to 10 per cent.

This job action will be hard to predict for customers. "Some routes will have gaps in service and there will likely be overcrowding", reads the statement.

Coast Mountain Bus Company president Michael McDaniel said the company's wage offer hasn't changed from a 9.6 per cent increase for bus drivers and a 12 per cent increase for tradespeople. Drivers would receive 40 minutes of recovery time per shift and be paid double time for every minute of the recovery time missed because of traffic congestion. Operators will also be able to take breaks to use the washroom whenever necessary.

The offer also includes pay increases of $6,100 annually on the top wage for drivers over the next four years, and $10,000 for skilled trades. But CMBC claims their proposal is more competitive than that of most public sector employees.

"It's very hard for us at this point in time to move off the current wage proposals that we have, given that it is so far in excess of the public sector settlements in British Columbia today", McDaniel said.

Coast Mountain president Michael McDaniel said that this action will "significantly impact" transit users.

The company says it offered an enhanced proposal for working conditions, but wage demands over the increases it has already offered would come at the expense of customer service and it's time for the union to compromise. We need a deal that's realistic. He said they're so short staffed the operations department requires overtime "daily just to run the system".

UBC has been posting notices to their website to update students, staff and faculty who could be impacted by a potential strike.

If an agreement is reached, Metro Vancouver commuters could still face transit woes because talks have collapsed between CUPE Local 7000 and the B.C. Rapid Transit Company which handles SkyTrain service on the Expo and Millennium lines.

Canada Line workers are not involved in this round of bargaining.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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