A bus is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Union, Coast Mountain head back to the bargaining table as bus walkout looms

Bus drivers, maintenance workers say they’ll walk off the job Wednesday

Unifor has headed back to the bargaining table with the Coast Mountain Bus Company on Tuesday in hopes of striking a deal before bus service is set to shut down.

Western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said Monday they are prepared to bargain “around the clock” to reach a deal.

Meanwhile, TransLink’s CEO said 100,000 people who have no alternative to taking the bus to work in Metro Vancouver could be stranded if the strike goes ahead this week.

Kevin Desmond called on both sides in the ongoing labour dispute to return to the table to avert the “unnecessary” job action.

Speaking at the Waterfront SkyTrain Station in Vancouver Monday, Desmond said bargaining would only work if both sides came back to the table “without any preconditions.”

Unifor, which represents 5,000 bus drivers and skilled trades people working for Coast Mountain, has been engaging in job action since Nov. 1. Up till now, it’s consisted of bus drivers ditching uniforms and maintenance workers and drivers refusing overtime.

The union announced last week that if the dispute was not resolved, its members would walk off the job Wednesday and buses would not run for three days.

Desmond said 160,000 people take the bus to work every day, and 100,000 of them don’t have a driver’s licence or access to a car. In total, 350,000 take the bus every day.

“I urge the union not to punish the transit users of this region. There is still time to end this,” Desmond said.

According to Coast Mountain, which operates buses in TransLink’s system, Unifor has refused four calls for mediation.

Desmond did not call on government to intervene.

“I happen to believe in collective bargaining. The workers have a right to collectively bargain with management,” he said, noting that unions and employees under TransLink have reached many deals in the past.

At the heart of the conflict is a $150-million gap in wages between CMBC’s offer and Unifor’s demands. The company said it is offering a 12.2-per-cent raise to skilled trades people and a 9.6-per-cent raise for bus drivers, both over four years.

Unifor has asked repeatedly why CMBC does not take into account wages for Toronto transit employees when making its offers to unionized workers.

Speaking Monday, Desmond said skilled tradespeople and bus drivers are sourced locally, while transit executives are come from “very small and competitive base” around the world.

He said TransLink has been working with alternate service providers, but “you can’t replace a bus system that transports 350,000 people every day.”

Those providers include Mobi, a bike-sharing partner, carpooling services such as gobyRIDE and Liftango, and car-sharing companies like Evo and Car2Go.

SkyTrain, the Canada Line, the West Coast Express and Handy Dart are not affected, though Desmond warned they could be busier than usual.

He said SkyTrain will run extra trains and have additional staff on hand to deal with the influx.

READ MORE: SFU student starts fundraiser to hire charter bus as transit shutdown looms

READ MORE: $150M sticking point: Coast Mountain, Unifor fight over wage gap as transit lockout looms

READ MORE: What happens if Metro Vancouver bus drivers start a ‘good work’ strike?


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Former Chilliwack city councillor’s breach of trust case resolved using ‘alternative measures’

Charges dropped against Sam Waddington who faced two counts from 2017 related to allegations

UBC soccer star Victory Shumbusho offers one-on-one training for Chilliwack players

The Chilliwack FC grad believes players need more training to reach higher levels of soccer

Wings and Wheels fundraiser ready to roll in Abbotsford this weekend

Unique collection of cars invading Tradex for drive-thru experiences on Saturday and Sunday

FoodMesh taking its emergency food recovery project nationwide

Pilot project in Chilliwack helped show that food surpluses could be diverted to charities in need

Chilliwack-Kent Liberal riding association president resigns

Sandy Mathies resignation follows MLA Laurie Throness LGBTQ controversies

Lawsuit launched after Florida child handcuffed, booked and briefly jailed

Suit alleges “deliberate indifference” to what should have been handled as a behavioural issue

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

Fraser Valley Bandits reflect on 2020 turnaround

Abbotsford-based CEBL team goes from worst to almost first at Summer Series

Russia approves vaccine, Putin hopes to begin mass production

Critic calls decision to proceed without thorough testing ‘dangerous and grossly immoral’

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

Doctor slain in Alberta medical clinic was devoted father, husband

Red Deer doctors on edge after attack on colleague who had two young daughters

Royal B.C. Museum wants B.C.’s COVID-19 nature observations

COVID-19 Collecting For Our Time: ongoing project cataloguing province’s pandemic experience

Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

For every dollar the province spends the federal government will match

Most Read