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Transit talks to resume, but union threatens drop in bus service Friday

Last Updated Nov 12, 2019 at 11:21 am PDT

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

The union representing transit workers will resume negotiations Wednesday

Union warns of a serious drop-off in service Friday without a deal

Bus drivers will refuse to work overtime Friday, meaning 10 to 15 per cent of trips could be delayed or cancelled

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – The union representing transit workers says it’s going back to the bargaining table, but there could be a severe drop-off in service by the end of the week without a deal.

Gavin McGarrigle with Unifor says negotiations with employer Coast Mountain Bus Company could wrap up quickly Wednesday if a resolution is reached.

“We will see whether or not the company is serious about achieving a resolution to this dispute, and if they are, bargaining can be wrapped up in a number of hours,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.

RELATED: Six SeaBus sailings cancelled Tuesday as Metro Vancouver transit action continues

The union is demanding a boost in wages, benefits and improved working conditions, with job action continuing to escalate since the strike began Nov. 1.

But if they don’t reach a deal by the end of the week, he says bus drivers could join SeaBus drivers and maintenance workers who are refusing to work overtime.

McGarrigle estimates an overtime ban could mean between 10 and 15 per cent of trips could be delayed or cancelled.

“All drivers are now being instructed to stop accepting overtime for all shifts that occur this Friday, November 15, if a fair agreement is not reached before then,” he says.

“We will also consider additional days next week, and in the weeks to come, where drivers will join with maintenance workers on the overtime ban.”

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

He says service disruptions will continue to escalate, “until a full strike will occur.”

“We know that the impact of this escalation will significantly impact service for the passengers this Friday, and in various other ways to come,” he says. “We know we serve the public and we want to make sure we give notice of this disruption.”

So far six SeaBus sailings have been cancelled Tuesday.

The President of Coast Mountain Bus Company says he welcomes the union’s return to the bargaining table.

“We are encouraged by this development and look forward to reaching an agreement which works for all parties involved,” Michael McDaniel says in a statement.

“All of us are committed to providing quality transit services to our customers every day of the year. I’m optimistic that we can find common ground to ensure this can continue. Given the formal bargaining process is set to resume, we will not be providing further comment at this time.”

– With files from Sonia Aslam