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SkyTrain passengers brace for possible three-day strike hoping last-minute negotiations lead to deal

Last Updated Dec 9, 2019 at 10:26 am PDT

FILE (CityNews Vancouver)

The Expo and Millennium lines could come to a halt on Tuesday if no deal is reached between union, employer

SkyTrain passengers are hoping that a last-minute deal can be reached to prevent a system shutdown

TransLink estimates about 150,000 people take the SkyTrain every weekday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – SkyTrain passengers are hoping for a last-minute deal to avoid Tuesday’s threatened system shut down.

The hope is that there is a breakthrough in negotiations, as the 5:00 a.m. deadline quickly approaches.

Commuters, like Matthew, say they’re in trouble if SkyTrain service is disrupted.

“I go to school in Delta, right? I’m a plumber, myself, for the Local 170, so trying to get out to Annacis Island from Vancouver without a SkyTrain is pretty difficult,” he tells NEWS 1130.

While he says there is a bus, Matthew admits getting to it will be difficult at 5:30 in the morning.

“Trying to carpool with somebody that goes to the same school,” he says of his options. “But besides that, it’s just trying to figure out a plan at this point.”

(Photo by Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

Jeff takes the SkyTrain to and from work every weekday. If the strike happens, he says it’ll be a “real inconvenience.”

“My wife and I only have one vehicle, and of course with all the extra traffic on the road, it’s just going to be chaos,” he explains.

However, if a strike does go ahead, Jeff says he’ll be taking the car, and his wife will carpool with a friend from work.

Others note there are a number of bus options, so not everyone is as stressed out about the possible job action.

Publicly, both sides appear to be taking shots at each other. Over the weekend, the TransLink spokesperson accused the union — CUPE 7000 — of “using the public as pawns.” The union local president has said that person made “inaccurate” and “incendiary” statements that have done nothing to further negotiations, and in fact are slowing the process.

If no deal is reached, about 900 SkyTrain workers are set to walk off the job on Tuesday for three days, affecting the Expo and Millennium lines.

The union issued a 72-hour strike notice on Friday, which followed 40 days of bargaining with the BC Rapid Transit Company, including four days of mediation.

The possible SkyTrain strike comes just less than a week after bus and SeaBus workers ratified a new deal with their employer — Coast Mountain Bus Company. Those union workers had threatened a system-wide shutdown, after taking job action like not wearing uniforms and refusing to work overtime, last month.

If the SkyTrain shutdown proceeds, trains will not run until 5:00 a.m. Friday. TransLink estimates about 150,000 people use the SkyTrain each weekday.

CUPE 7000 says it will make no more public statements until further notice.

Strike action would not include the Canada Line or West Coast Express. TransLink says it will provide an update on Monday afternoon on plans for buses and other operational transit lines if a strike were to go ahead.

-With files from Lisa Steacy