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Overtime, uniform bans proposed if Metro Vancouver transit strike begins Friday

Last Updated Oct 31, 2019 at 11:37 am PDT

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

According to TransLink, most services like SkyTrain will continue to run as usual on Friday morning

Unifor says a uniform ban and a ban on some overtime will start if a deal is not reached by Friday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The union representing bus drivers and other transit staff across Metro Vancouver says if ongoing negotiations don’t produce a deal by midnight Thursday, job action will begin with bans on overtime and uniforms.

A statement from Unifor says starting Friday, transit operators on all routes will refuse to wear uniforms while technicians and skilled trades workers will refuse overtime shifts.

Jill Drews is with TransLink, and she says so far it’s not clear how the commute will be affected if a new deal isn’t reached between Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) and the union.

“What remains to be seen is what is going to happen with the bus and SeaBus come Friday morning.” Drews says. “That is causing some confusion and frustration, we understand that.”

Unifor says the measures are aimed at increasing exposure of the negotiations, while causing little disruption for commuters.

While the uniform ban raises awareness, refusal of overtime could impact service, the union adds.

“The overtime ban for maintenance workers will gradually increase pressure on the system and will quickly lead to fewer buses on the roads and could also affect SeaBus service.”

Drews says that SkyTrain service will not be impacted if there is further job action.

“The majority of our services will be running as normal,” she says. “That includes SkyTrain, Canada Line, West Coast Express, HandyDART, West Vancouver Blue Bus, and some contracted shuttle services on Bowen Island and in Langley.”

She says it’s important for customers to be kept in the loop about any potential changes in services.

“Whatever we can tell them in regards to job action and how it is impacting our service is something we will try to get out frequently, and as widely as possible,” she says.

Earlier this month, more than 5,000 members of Unifor locals 111 and 2200, representing bus drivers, SeaBus and maintenance staff, voted 99 per cent in favour of job action against CMBC, which operates on behalf of TransLink.

Wages, benefits and working conditions are key issues in the dispute.

CMBC President Michael McDaniel says in a statement the company has asked the union to participate in third-party mediation, but they refused.

“If the union proceeds with job action, it will only punish transit users in Metro Vancouver, many of whom rely on our system for their daily commute. Without maintenance overtime, we will see bus and SeaBus service cancellations, affecting customers,” he says.

“CMBC is now back at the table and our current offer includes significantly better wages and benefits, and addresses working conditions,” the statement continues. “This package would be greater than most other public sector settlements in B.C. I urge the union to hold off on job action until a deal is done.”

The last transit strike in Metro Vancouver was in 2001 when a four-month walkout crippled the commute for hundreds of thousands of people.

With files from the Canadian Press