Loading articles...

Bus, SeaBus workers promise 'complete system shutdown' if no deal reached

Last Updated Nov 20, 2019 at 8:03 pm PST

Summary

The Unifor spokesperson said if a deal is not reached, next week there will be three days of no bus service

Picketing will be happening across the city, and a large rally is planned for Thursday, Nov. 28 at 1 p.m.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The union representing striking Metro Vancouver transit workers says there will be a complete shutdown of the bus system for three days next week if Unifor and Coast Mountain Bus Company are not able to reach a deal.

Unifor spokesperson Gavin McGarrigle announced at a news conference on Wednesday that if the two parties don’t come to a resolution, his union will launch a total shutdown on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Beginning one week from today, we will engage in a complete system shutdown on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week,” he said. “No members of Unifor Local 111 and 2200 will report to work on those days. Picketing will begin at all locations and we expect a complete shutdown of the bus system in Metro Vancouver as a result.”

McGarrigle said the union was hopeful about bargaining, but relations with CMBC, which operates on behalf of TransLink, continued to break down.

“We have taken measured action in order to protect the public,” he added. “Drivers took no action for weeks, other than refusing to wear their uniforms while we spoke to the public.”

Unifor and CMBC have been in on-and-off talks all month, while job action by the roughly 5,000 Unifor transit drivers, SeaBus operators and mechanics continues.

Union members are asking for improvements to working conditions, wages and benefits.

Acknowledging the chaos a total shutdown would cause the traveling public, McGarrigle said Unifor members will hold a rally of support for riders, but it is up to elected representatives to deal with the impasse.

He again cited the “outrageous” raises of TransLink managers while frontline workers were forced to accept less than workers who do the same job in other cities, and said the number of assaults on bus drivers has been increasing in recent years.

McGarrigle said picketing will be happening across the city, and a large rally is planned for Thursday, Nov. 28 at 1 p.m. at TransLink headquarters.

Employer condemns shutdown

Coast Mountain Bus Company is condemning the full shut-down of the transit system announced by union workers next week.

Ben Murphy with TransLink says the workers have been offered wages higher other public sector settlements in B.C.

“The job action the union has announced today is completely unnecessary. We condemn this action by the union, and we urge them to return to the bargaining table with more reasonable wage demands,” he says.

Coast Mountain Bus Company has said it is addressing the union’s complaints about working conditions and offering “generous” wage increases.

“The union asked better working conditions. Coast Mountain has delivered that in their offer. The union asked for guaranteed rest times. The transit operator Coast Mountain has delivered that in their offer. The union asked for wages in excess of public sector settlements in this province, and Coast Mountain has delivered that in their offer,” Murphy says.

It says giving into the union’s demands will mean higher fares, fees and taxes for transit users, or put plans for expanding the system in jeopardy.

Coast Mountain says it hopes the union will rethink its wage demands and return to bargaining.

Transit strike top of mind at legislature

Speaking for the province, Labour Minister Harry Bains says the government isn’t considering stepping in.

He says the shutdown is difficult for anyone who relies on transit, adding that “no one wants to see a disruption,” and urges both sides to return to the bargaining table.

“They have done it numerous times without any outside help. Those parties are very mature in bargaining, when it comes to bargaining in the past, and they know exactly what it takes,” he says.

He urges both sides to return to the bargaining table hoping they will find a fair deal.

– With files from Martin MacMahon, Marcella Bernardo, Liza Yuzda, Espe Currie and Lauren Boothby