SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Face-to-face labour talks are underway in Surrey, with job action by Metro Vancouver’s bus and SeaBus drivers looming. The union says working conditions are the lightning rod issue.
And while it’s still not clear how service might be affected, the union is ruling out a complete shutdown of the bus network.
Unifor’s lead negotiator Gavin McGarrigle says the only progress made so far is an agreement in principle on an essential services order, ensuring that if overhead trolly lines go down during a strike, there will still be workers there to fix them.
“If we did move to a full shutdown, with trolly buses being affected, then there wouldn’t be that service, but there would be an agreement to have essential repairs made to make sure the public is safe.”
He says if the talks are unsuccessful, we’ll learn specifically what the job action will look like before the Friday morning strike deadline.
“What we’ve been focused on is if we have to go to strike action, what would put the maximum pressure on the company and hopefully the minimal pressure on the passengers, because we know that’s who we’re serving.”
Even though the potential transit disruptions won’t be as widespread as the last time transit workers went on strike, former Vancouver City Councillor Gordon Price says the impacts could still be worse.
“I do know we have one of the highest use ratios in North America and it has been increasing pretty significantly in the last few years. Really significant growth rate – something like 17 per cent, about, over the last three or four years. Very, very high.”
Since 2001, he says, system-wide boardings on Metro Vancouver’s transit system have roughly doubled.
Price says while the scale of this new job action won’t be as large as the last time around, the impacts could be more severe.
“We have such a better transit system, that more people use it and it already is bursting at the seams.”
McGarrigle says working conditions are a major issue during these talks, and adds the recent video of a passenger spitting on a bus driver demonstrates what members go through on a day-to-day basis.
No matter what happens, the SkyTrain, Canada Line, and West Coast Express should not be affected.