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'They are using the public as pawns': TransLink slams planned SkyTrain shutdown

Last Updated Dec 7, 2019 at 4:47 pm PDT

FILE -- A prospective seating arrangement for new SkyTrain cars, included in a TransLink survey seeking public feedback in January of 2019. (Courtesy: TransLink) https://translink.checkbox.ca/SkyTrain-Fleet-Expansion-Consultation.aspx

150,000 people ride the Millennium and Expo lines every weekday and TransLink says buses can't replace this service

TransLink remains hopeful a deal can be struck, but encourages people to make alternate arrangements

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — On the heels of an announcement by the union representing SkyTrain workers that job action will begin with a three-day shutdown, TransLink is saying the escalation is unreasonable and unacceptable.

“This is a very disappointing development. The public should not be used as pawns in these labour negotiations,” says spokesperson Ben Murphy.

CUPE 7000, the union representing SkyTrain employees, says if no deal is reached by 5 a.m. Tuesday, the Expo and Millennium lines will be shut down until 5 a.m. Friday.

Murphy says 150,000 people take the Expo and Millennium lines each weekday.

“Many of those people have no other options. Many of those people need to use that system to get to work, to get to school, to get around the region. Shutting down those lines for three days will cause an enormous amount of disruption,” he says. “Contingency planning is happening right now. We are looking at what options there are but to be very clear, bus service will not be able to replace the Expo and Millennium lines.”

Murphy says TransLink remains hopeful a deal can be struck in time to avert a shutdown, but encourages people to start considering alternative arrangements.

He says transit users who don’t take the SkyTrain will feel the effects because buses will be more crowded.

“We do not want to see this job action go ahead,” he says. “We do not see it as an acceptable or reasonable tactic.”

‘We’re ready to bargain day and night:’ Union President  

Meantime, CUPE 7000 President Tony Rebelo says he is “cautiously optimistic” a deal can be reached in time to avoid a shutdown.

He says other options for job action were considered but a full shutdown is the only way to ensure passenger safety because something like an overtime ban would leave them too short-staffed.

“If we had to deal with a major emergency it would put our passengers at risk.”

He says the negotiating committee remains at the table Saturday evening.

“We let our employer know today about the shutdown for Tuesday morning to let them know how serious we are at getting a fair deal,” Rebelo says. ” We’re here all weekend ready to bargain with the employer. Our committee has put our lives on hold for this whole weekend and we’re ready to bargain day and night.”