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Sympathy for Metro Vancouver transit workers may not last as strike goes on: experts

Last Updated Nov 7, 2019 at 10:22 am PST

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

Labour experts say as the Metro Vancouver transit strike continues, commuters may become less sympathetic to the workers

The job action is expected to escalate, with bus cancellations coming by the end of this week

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There has been plenty of support for transit workers as their strike gradually escalates, at least among the commuters NEWS 1130 has spoken with in Metro Vancouver. But labour experts suggest that sympathy will be tested as time goes on.

The limited strike action, which has caused over 60 SeaBus sailing cancellations, is something many commuters have been able to manage. So far, it has lasted a week.

Heather Hettiarachchi, a mediator and lawyer with Integritas Workplace Law and with the ADR Institute of British Columbia, says if bus service is significantly limited for an extended period of time, this will test the goodwill riders have been displaying.

“When you consider the time of the year that we are in, we’re getting into really bad weather soon with winter – I feel that people will not be as sympathetic as time wears on,” she says.

RELATED: 16 SeaBus sailings cancelled on day seven of Metro Vancouver transit strike

But Sauder School of Business professor emeritus Mark Thompson warns the bus company can’t simply wait this one out, or the public could turn on it too.

“Just because the union calls a strike, doesn’t mean that they automatically blame the union for this disruption,” he says.

Talks between Unifor and Coast Mountain Bus Company, which operates Metro Vancouver transit services on behalf of TransLink, broke off last week, leading to the job action by roughly 5,000 Unifor transit drivers, SeaBus operators and mechanics.

Working conditions, wages and benefits have been the main sticking point in negotiations. The two sides have not been at the table since talks broken down.

The job action is expected to escalate, with bus cancellations coming by the end of this week.