VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – To pay or not to pay? That’s the question for a growing number of frustrated bus passengers as job action in Metro Vancouver drags on.
Talks between Unifor and CMBC, which operates Metro Vancouver transit services on behalf of TransLink, reached a tipping point on Nov. 1, leading to the job action by roughly 5,000 Unifor transit drivers, SeaBus operators and mechanics.
Some riders are refusing to hand over their fares, including Corbet Rutzer, who argues it’s an effective and very direct way to get the attention of the Coast Mountain Bus Company and TransLink and protest the delayed service.
“Writing letters and stuff, they never respond to anything, they don’t do anything,” he says. “So I thought – hit ’em in the chequebook, in the bank account, and that would get their attention.”
Unifor’s Gavin McGarrigle says the union is not encouraging passengers to skip paying or telling operators to cover fare boxes – at least not yet.
“Everything is on the table, up to and including a full work stoppage. And certainly not collecting fares is one of the options that we’ve looked at,” McGarrigle says.
Working conditions, wages and benefits have been the main sticking points in negotiations.
If we all refused to pay, that would really send a message.
— ©orbet ®utzer (@crutzer) November 14, 2019
“Passengers are angry at the company and they’re going to take it out whatever way they think is appropriate,” McGarrigle says. “If some people are choosing not to pay fares, that’s their business. I can understand why some passengers say, ‘Well if you’re going to save money off the backs of the workers then we’re not going to give you money.’ This is a problem that is not going away.”
Transit Police warn that passengers are still expected to pay their fares, and face a fine if they don’t. That doesn’t bother Rutzer.
“This affects the regular people who take the bus as their main form of transit. It’s not fair to use those people that rely on transit as pawns in their negotiation, with no care for their situations,” he says. “If I have to wait twice as long, three times as long for a bus that’s going to be even more crowded than it is normally, what am I paying for? And what a way to get TransLink’s attention.”
Except TransLink isn’t seeing this happen and says there hasn’t been a difference in revenue.
It adds fare revenue makes up about 50 per cent of its operating budget, which goes towards addressing things like overcrowding.