Transit Strike: Cancellations, delays expected through long weekend in Metro Vancouver


Transit riders prepare to board a sea bus to North Vancouver from the Waterfront station terminal.

Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

Metro Vancouver’s transit strike is expected to continue through the long weekend, with the union representing 5,000 transit workers saying that it’s “only going to get worse” as the job action enters week two.

Dozens of bus routes SeaBus sailings were canceled Friday, and there were delays or cancellations on at least 25 bus routes in the region.

Transit workers are staging a multi-part strike that began Nov. 1. The union walked out of negotiations last week, and no talks are planned.

It’s unknown whether the union will step up job action on the weekend, but if they do the next step will likely be an overtime ban for bus drivers, which could reduce bus service by another 10 to 15 per cent, according to Unifor western regional director, Gavin McGarrigle.

On Friday, he said Coast Mountain Bus Company has failed to address the outstanding issues.

“They don’t want to deal with the disparity in wages between here and the transit operators in Toronto and they don’t want to deal with the disparities for skilled tradespeople that already work for TransLink and they certainly don’t want to talk about minimum breaks for bus drivers,” he said, in a video post on Twitter Friday.

“So as soon as they are serious and want to come back to the table then we are ready to go. But right now our members are firm, they are determined. They gave us a 99 per cent strike mandate and we will last until we get these issues addressed.”

TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews said Friday that it’s difficult to ascertain what service will be like on the weekend because the company is not sharing their plans with TransLink, which means planning can’t take place. She said TransLink will provide updates in the morning as soon as they know what routes are affected.

The company has formally asked the union to return to the bargaining table but  the union has declined the offer.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond has said he wants a negotiated end to the strike and is urging the union to return to collective bargaining.

Coast Mountain Bus Company president Mike McDaniel said the deal being offered to transit workers includes a 12.2 per cent pay increase for skilled trades over four years, and a 9.6 per cent pay increase for transit operators over the same period.

The two sides are far apart in what they are looking for in a new contract. Coast Mountain has said that what Unifor wants will cost more than $600 million over the 10 years. The company said that kind of deal would jeopardize transit system expansion plans.

On Friday, TransLink said the job action resulted in a reduction of frequency on 25 of the region’s busiest bus routes during the morning rush. As of 10:30 a.m. there had already been 168 transit alerts for busses.

For a list of the affected routes CLICK HERE.

The strike began Nov. 1 with a uniform strike by transit operators and an overtime ban by maintenance workers. SeaBus service was also affected on the weekend.

Unifor is seeking a 15.2 per cent increase compounded over four years for bus drivers and 16.7 per cent compounded over four years for maintenance workers. The employer is offering 9.6 per cent  for drivers and 12.2 per cent for maintenance workers.

-With files from Jennifer Saltman

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