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Bus cancellations to come if transit workers strike continues

Last Updated Nov 9, 2019 at 4:40 pm PDT

FILE: A bus is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Unifor representative says they may start to cancel buses mid-next week if TransLink doesn't change its tune

SeaBus drivers are refusing to do overtime, and that's causing some cancellations and delays

No SeaBus sailings are cancelled Saturday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Bus trips could be cancelled by mid-next week if nothing changes in negotiations with transit workers.

Gavin McGarrigle with Unifor says they’re looking at a possible overtime ban for drivers, meaning 10 to 15 per cent of all bus trips could be cancelled.

McGarrigle says if the Coast Mountain Bus Company keep blaming workers, they will have no choice but to escalate.

“Anyone that was been at a bargaining table before knows that when things get to this stage everything is on the table or nothing is on the table,” he says.

“This sham that they want to go back to negotiations is intended to mislead the public and avoid stressing the real issues.”

He says there won’t be any escalations until after Remembrance Day, and they’ll give the public plenty of notice before any big changes to services.

“Ultimately if we’re getting mixed signals that they are simply going to play this game of blaming the workers and avoiding the real issues we are going to have no choice but to escalate.”

For the first time since the strike, there are no cancelled SeaBus sailings scheduled for Saturday.

Trip cancellations have hit SeaBus service every day since Nov. 1, when maintenance workers began refusing overtime and bus drivers began refusing to wear their uniforms.

As of Saturday, SeaBus and maintenance workers are both on an overtime ban.

On Friday, 16 sailings were cancelled and dozens of trips were also cancelled on 25 bus routes.

TransLink says the nature of the union’s maintenance overtime ban means SeaBus sailing cancellations will fluctuate each day. It adds most of the bus reductions affected “high-frequency routes,” including several servicing UBC.

BCAA, which runs Evo Car Share, says it’s preparing for the cancellation by increasing staffing at the Evo call centre, and putting more cars near SkyTrain stations and busy travel corridors.

During the 2001 transit strike, it took four months of no bus service whatsoever before legislation was passed to get them running again.

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

The two sides are currently not at the bargaining table, eight days into the job action, and no further talks are scheduled.

The union has a 99 per cent strike mandate backing demands for approximately $608 million in improved wages, benefits and working conditions over the next 10 years.

Post-secondary students in Metro Vancouver are being told to prepare for a potential escalation of job action by striking transit workers next week.

SFU, UBC and BCIT have issued statements this weekend advising students on alternatives to bussing and saying they are preparing for an increase in vehicle traffic.

All three schools say that classes and exams will proceed as scheduled.

With files from Lauren Boothby