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Metro Vancouver transit users worry about impact of potential bus, SeaBus strike

Last Updated Oct 11, 2019 at 9:25 am PDT

People board a bus at the Commercial-Broadway station in Vancouver. (Monika Gul, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Some transit users are worried about possible bus, SeaBus strike action

Transit users in Vancouver tell NEWS 1130 they'll have to make other arrangements to get to work if bus workers strike

Thousands of bus, SeaBus workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate on Thursday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Transit users around Metro Vancouver are hoping a deal is reached next week, after bus drivers, SeaBus operators, and maintenance workers overwhelmingly voted in favour of striking.

The union voted 99 per cent in favour of a strike mandate, after a day-long vote on Thursday. Members of Unifor locals 111 and 2200 have been without a contract since Mar. 31.

Transit users won’t be immediately impacted, as negotiations are set to resume next week, but some say they’re already thinking about a Plan B to get to and from work.

“It’s going to affect me, of course. I’ll have to walk to work,” one transit user said on Friday, another adding she doesn’t know how she’ll get to her job if buses are impacted by strike action.

Negotiations of a new collective agreement broke down Oct. 3 and union leaders have said concerns over benefits and wages have not been addressed.

Another key issue for members who voted is working conditions, like overcrowding, which the union reports have worsened due to an increase in ridership.

Some people have expressed sympathy for the bus and SeaBus workers.

“I know bus drivers go through a lot of B.S. on the daily so I kind of feel like if they want something, i’m willing to be a little more patient so that they can be happier on the job,” said one women to NEWS 1130.

But others are not as understanding.

“I feel bad for them, but they make a good living. They’ve got a good benefit package, a good health package,” Greg told NEWS 1130. “There’s other avenues to do something if you’re trying to fight for more benefits or something. Don’t affect the people that actually take the bus.”

Unifor has said it will provide 72 hours notice if members decide to take job action.

“The possibility of a strike is not taken lightly by the workers,” Balbir Mann, Unifor Local 111 president, said on Friday. “We will continue to negotiate in good faith but we are prepared to take action if it proves necessary to obtain a fair contract that will allow our members to continue to deliver award-winning service to the public.”

In 2016, the union similarly voted in favour of a strike, but a contract was negotiated before major disruptions to service could occur.

Any walkout would be the first in Metro Vancouver since a four-month transit strike in 2001 was ended by provincial legislation.

Meantime, TransLink says in a statement that it doesn’t “anticipate imminent disruption to service at this time.”

“Unifor Locals 111 and 2200 have informed Coast Mountain Bus Company their membership has voted in favour of strike action,” the statement reads. “CMBC remains committed to reaching an acceptable negotiated settlement. Both parties will continue bargaining in the coming days.”

-With files from Alison Bailey and the Canadian Press.