VANCOUVER – Bus and SeaBus drivers in Metro Vancouver are taking part in a day-long strike vote.
The workers are employed by Coast Mountain Bus Company, which handles Metro Vancouver transit services on behalf of TransLink.
Roughly 5,000 workers, members of Unifor locals 111 and 2200, have been without a contract since Mar. 31.
The vote is set to wrap up at around 10:00 p.m., according to Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle.
He’s expecting a high turnout through the day, but adds if the vote is in favour of a strike, transit users won’t immediately be impacted.
“A strike mandate under B.C. law is good for 90 days,” he explains. “We do have negotiations that are set to take place next week on Oct. 15th, 16th, and 17th. We’ll see how that session goes and you know, we might set some further dates or we might make some decisions at that point.”
The union has also previously said that transit users would receive 72-hour notice if job action occurs.
“And of course we would be committed to do that, so right now we’re focused on securing a mandate from our members, getting back to the table, trying to get a fair contract. If that doesn’t work, we’ll reassess where we go from there.”
Negotiations have stalled because union leaders say concerns over benefits and wages have not been addressed. Another key issue is working conditions, which the union reports have worsened due to an increase in ridership.
“[…]Right now we want to get back to the bargaining table next week with the members’ support behind us to try to impress upon the company that these issues relating to working conditions, and wages, and benefits are extremely serious and our members are determined to get them addressed in this round of bargaining.”
McGarrigle says he hopes a strike isn’t necessary, adding members don’t want to disrupt the public.
“Our members just want to make sure they can take care of their passengers,” he says. “They’re sick and tired of all of the pass-ups that they see, they’re sick and tired of watching passengers on the side of the road while three, four, five buses go by — that just raises the tension for them.”
He adds drivers need proper breaks to be able to do things like use the washroom, eat, and just recharge.
“We don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
Any walkout would be the first in Metro Vancouver since a four-month transit strike in 2001 was ended by provincial legislation.
In 2016, the union voted to strike but a contract was negotiated in time to avert any major disruptions to service.
-With files from Marcella Bernardo