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Bus disruptions to escalate in overtime strike after transit talks break down

Last Updated Nov 15, 2019 at 5:19 am PDT


Bus drivers will join an overtime strike Friday, meaning 10 to 15 per cent of trips could be impacted

Negotiations between the union representing transit workers and Coast Mountain Bus Company have broken down

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – More disruptions on Metro Vancouver transit are expected Friday, now that talks have broken down between the union representing transit workers and Coast Mountain Bus Company.

Bus drivers are set to join SeaBus and maintenance workers in an overtime ban, which could mean between 10 and 15 per cent of all bus trips could be impacted. The ban will continue Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week.

Unifor’s Gavin McGarrigle says that while he can’t say where exactly bus service will be impacted, disruptions will be felt system-wide.

“We think you’re going to start to see major impacts, and you’re [going to] start to see more impacts next week,” he says. “Certainly, we have been clear that we will continue to escalate over time until at some point we will reach a full work stoppage.”

He says they will continue to escalate job action until they get a “fair deal.”

“We’re simply going to work our full shifts, the only thing we’re doing is not working overtime, and it’s up to the company, who does control scheduling and does control the allocation of buses, to inform the public as best they can, but they should also take some responsibility for the fact that they’re failing to address these key issues, failing to acknowledge reasonable comparisons, while rewarding their executives with ridiculous wage increase,” he says.

RELATED: SkyTrain union negotiations break down, no service disruptions planned

The union is demanding a boost in wages, benefits and improved working conditions in negotiations for a new contract. Workers have been refusing to wear uniforms as part of the growing job action since the strike began on Nov. 1.

McGarrigle says he’s not surprised the two sides were unable to reach a deal.

“We started to talk about working conditions [Wednesday], but as we started to move to the outstanding issues, it very quickly became clear this was not something the company was prepared to address. They rejected any comparison of transit operator wages with Toronto, even though they are happy to do that when they give their executives in Coast Mountain and TransLink huge wages,” he says.

Employer disappointed latest offer wasn’t accepted

Coast Mountain Bus Company says it’s unhappy they weren’t able to reach a deal in the latest round of talks, and its requests to include a mediator in negotiations have been rejected by the union.

The company says it offered drivers 40 minutes of guaranteed recovery time – time drivers can use to go to the washroom or get a bite to eat while on shift – and double time for any minute of that recovery time they don’t use, under 40 minutes, during regular road conditions. It also emphasizes that drivers are allowed to use the washroom whenever necessary.

According to TransLink, drivers currently aren’t guaranteed any specific amount of recovery time, although it says time is scheduled into each shift, but can be reduced because of traffic congestion.

It’s also offering top annual wage increase for operators of around $6,100 over the next four years, raising the annual salary to $69,000. Skilled trades workers would also see an increase of about $10,000 over the next four years, up to $88,000 annually.

“This enhanced proposal directly focuses on working conditions. This is the exact issue the union has asked us to improve,” Coast Mountain Bus Company President Michael McDaniel said in a press release. “Wage demands over and above the increases we have already offered will come at the expense of services for customers. We need a deal that’s realistic. It’s time for the union to be willing to compromise.”

Meantime, talks between the union representing SkyTrain workers and employer BC Rapid Transit Company have also broken down. Westcoast Express and the Canada Line will not be impacted in those negotiations.

– With files from Sonia Aslam and Marcella Bernardo