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Transit users in Fraser Valley losing money, shifts, jobs as ongoing strike keeps buses parked

CUPE 561 members share public concerns about daily impacts of Fraser Valley transit strike
CUPE 561 transit workers stand at the picket line in the ongoing transit strike, as they wait for a deal to be hammered out between the union and their employer, First Transit. (@fraservalleytransitstrike/Instagram)

There are already reports of bus riders losing shifts, money and even their jobs, as the Fraser Valley transit strike carries on.

CUPE 561 workers went on a full strike on March 20 as they push for a better contract with their employer, First Transit. They’ve been active on social media, where they are urging transit users to send them their support via a pledge form.

With that support, they’re also hearing from those who have been severely affected by the lack of services.

The union says it has heard from people who live on disability and rely heavily on public transit, people who can’t get to their jobs or have lost their jobs—or who have accumulated high taxi and Uber bills to keep them.

There are also those who have missed doctor’s appointments, or university exams. Taxi rides in some cases cost more than $100 one way for these students, the union reports. Walking and carpooling aren’t always possible, either.

In a press release sent out Monday, the union says that “public support has been strong from the beginning” but that these disruptions to people’s daily lives may not be heard by First Transit, or BC Transit, which contracts the Fraser Valley bus systems out to First Transit. The affected communities are Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope.

And the workers themselves are also transit users, the union added.

“Our members are residents of the Fraser Valley, too, and many of them also rely on transit to get around their community, so it pains them to hear what their neighbours are going through,” said CUPE 561 President Jane Gibbons. “Unfortunately, our efforts to share these concerns with BC Transit, which contracts the service to First Transit, have gone unanswered.”

Riders are reaching out to them to give all sorts of suggestions.

“One student even begged us to make an exception and resume the bus line to UFV. I really wish job action could work that way, but unfortunately it doesn’t,” said Gibbons. “Our members did not want to go on strike – they were left with no choice. They need and deserve to be able to work under the same wages and conditions that other transit workers do, and with a pension, so they can provide better service to Fraser Valley residents. That’s why we are asking the public to contact BC Transit directly: by sending them a letter from, and sharing these same personal stories about the strike’s impact, transit users can help us finally get through to BC Transit, to try to end this strike.”

First Transit has said throughout the strike that they believe the current offer on the table is a good one.

READ MORE: Transit strike in eastern Fraser Valley could end up costing man his job in Vancouver

Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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