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Would mediation help resolve Metro Vancouver transit strike? Expert says 'maybe'

Last Updated Nov 22, 2019 at 12:07 pm PST

A TransLink trolley bus, operated by Coast Mountain Bus Company, in downtown Vancouver on a rainy November morning in 2019. (Source: Monika Gul/NEWS 1130)
Summary

As transit action continues in Vancouver, some are wondering if mediation would jump-start talks

When the gap between positions is too significant, a labour expert says the lack of overlap can limit the effectiveness

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As transit users throughout the region hope for a quick resolution to the ongoing labour dispute, Coast Mountain Bus Company has proposed bringing in a mediator.

Business professor Fiona McQuarrie with the University of the Fraser Valley says mediation can make a real difference, but it depends on the circumstances of the dispute.

“It’s certainly a path that’s worth exploring, but if the parties genuinely feel that they’re so far apart that there is no common ground, then a mediator will only do so much and may not be able to persuade them to find that common ground,” she says.

RELATED: Metro Vancouver drivers warned about possible impacts from transit strike as job action set to escalate

Transit workers have been participating in job action since the beginning of the month, working out of uniform and refusing overtime. Things are set to escalate next week, when the union says it will launch a full bus system shutdown on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday if the two sides don’t reach a deal.

Could mediation stop that from happening?

When the gap between positions is too significant, McQuarrie says the lack of overlap can limit their effectiveness.

“If the parties are genuinely committed to their positions and the positions are not overlapping, in that there’s no common ground, then a mediator can usually do what they can but they may not be able to encourage a settlement,” she says.

It’s also worth noting that what mediators propose is not binding, McQuarrie says, and ultimately the sides themselves will need to find their way to a resolution.