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Viral photo of bus driver bathroom points to problems facing Metro Vancouver transit workers

Last Updated Nov 10, 2019 at 4:45 pm PDT

Summary

A photo of a microwave set up within arm's length of a toilet in a bathroom for bus drivers has gone viral

The photo surfaced amid strike action by transit workers, working conditions are one of the central contract issues

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — For bus driver Brad Stringer, time and space are hard to come by when he takes his breaks at the end of a North Vancouver bus route.

A picture of the bathroom at the end of the 210 Lynn Valley route, showing a microwave set up within arm’s length of a toilet has gone viral.

“At this terminus, this is pretty much the only place,” Stringer says while giving a tour of the facilities.

The bathroom was never meant to do double-duty as a kitchen or a break room.

“[Coast Mountain Bus Company]  is aware staff have been plugging in a microwave in the toilet area. Supervisors have repeatedly removed the microwave, but staff keep putting it back. To be clear, CMBC has not set up this washroom with a microwave, nor does CMBC intend for operators to cook food in washrooms,” says TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy. “CMBC provides facilities for operators to use the washroom or spend rest time along the system, with most being found at the end of routes. There are 53 in total. Most have crew rooms and some are washrooms only. CMBC owns the facilities or rents access to facilities.”

Stringer says the break rooms and bathrooms on different routes have different degrees of quality and comfort.

At Laurel station, for example, there are no indoor facilities.

“There’s freezing cold outhouses that are in need of desperate repair,”

But Stringer says the main issue is time, and operators can’t squeeze in a bathroom break and a run to the store for a snack.

Hence the microwave.

“There’s just not enough time on most runs for operators to have a quick break and use the washroom without feeling like they have to run back and get the passengers on their way,” he says.

Job action by roughly 5,000 Unifor transit drivers, SeaBus operators, and mechanics began on Nov 1.

The two sides have not been at the table since talks broke down on Oct. 31.

A key issue is working conditions, which the union reports have worsened due to an increase in ridership.

“The system overload is impacting breaks and recovery time in between trips as drivers struggle to maintain service,” according to Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle.

“The end result is overworked drivers and that’s a serious safety issue that must be dealt with at the table.”

Wages and benefits are also key sticking points.