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Striking Metro Vancouver transit workers can count on some support from labour

Last Updated Nov 8, 2019 at 7:09 pm PDT

(Photo credit: Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

Unifor is the largest private-sector union in Canada but has a strained relationship with organized labour

'Working people support working people. If there are picket lines, we'll, of course, honour them:" BCFED

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Any picket lines set up as part of job action by five thousand transit workers in Metro Vancouver will be honoured by more than half a million members of the BC Federation of Labour.

Unifor is the largest private-sector union in Canada, but it’s no longer part of the Canadian Labour Congress after defying orders to stop recruiting members from other unions more than two years ago.

“Working people support working people. If there are picket lines, we’ll, of course, honour them,” says Laird Cronk, president of the BC Federation of Labour. “The BC Federation of Labour has a picket policy. They’ve had it for a long time. It’s not going anywhere. Honour those lines and do not cross them.”

Cronk says the labour movement supports attempts by transit workers to negotiate a fair collective agreement.

“There’s significant issues that the workers are facing around things like, if you can imagine, not even having time for washroom breaks or meals. Those things need to get back to the bargaining table,” he says. “This is about workers who need to get a collective agreement that respects them.”

Cronk says he can’t comment on whether striking transit workers can expect to see further support from BC FED members, such as members joining them on the picket line.

On Friday, job action by Metro Vancouver transit workers entered day eight, with no end in sight. On Thursday, a statement from Coast Mountain Bus Company President Michael McDaniel said CMBC has “formally asked the union to come back to the bargaining table to discuss working conditions for bus operators, but they have once again refused.”

Talks between Unifor and CMBC, 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 points in negotiations. The two sides have not been at the table since talks broke down.

More than 60 SeaBus sailings have been cancelled since the job action began last Friday, and the impacts to bus routes are starting to be felt.

With files from Espe Currie