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Chilliwack joins regional district, other cities asking province to assign mediator in transit strike

‘Municipalities that are truly affected need to push the provincial government to move forward’
Chilliwack Coun. Jeff Shields said asking the province to assign a mediator in the transit strike was a ‘grand idea,’ at city hall on April 18, 2023. (Screenshot/ City of Chilliwack video)

Chilliwack is joining other Fraser Valley municipalities in asking the provincial government to take action to resolve the four-week old transit strike.

City council agreed Tuesday to co-sign a letter urging B.C. Minister of Labour Harry Bains to “assign a mediator” in the labour dispute that has suspended all regular transit in the Eastern Fraser Valley since March 20.

The impasse is between the transit workers of CUPE 561, who are seeking better wages and a pension, and the employer, First Transit, an American company contracted out by BC Transit.

“I think it’s a grand idea,” Coun. Jeff Shields said about co-signing a letter with the FVRD, and other cities, urging provincial action on the Fraser Valley strike.

“We are a month in and there’s a total impasse.”

A “push” by provincial officials is exactly what’s needed.

“Municipalities that are truly affected need to push the provincial government to move forward with this,” Shields added.

Mayor Ken Popove said although city officials couldn’t speak to the dispute, “we can do this,” he said about firing off a letter to the minister.

Coun. Nicole Read shared her hopes that “the province, and the mediator,” and the two parties, “will be able to resolve this quickly so folks can get back to work.”

Popove said the recommendation asking the province to take action “came out of the FVRD” and other cities such as Abbotsford and Mission will be co-signers.

Calling for the assistance of the mediator “is definitely the right move,” said Coun. Chris Kloot.

However Labour Minister Harry Bains told Black Press in a scrum at the legislature that neither party in the dispute is “ready” for mediation.

The minister said he had reached out to both sides to “remind them of their responsibility” to get back to the bargaining table — to no avail.

Bains said any mediation would be undertaken at the B.C. Labour Relations Board level in any case, but underlined that he had offered the parties mediation services.

“Mediation can’t help until they both agree they are ready for mediation,” Bains said.

All conventional public transit from Abbotsford to Hope was halted with the exception of HandyDart essential services in Abbotsford.

—with files from Jessica Peters

RELATED: Mediation can’t help until both sides ‘agree they are ready:’ says minister

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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