Metro Vancouver bus drivers deliver 72-hour strike notice

For the first time in 18 years, the union representing Metro Vancouver bus drivers has served Coast Mountain Bus Company with a 72-hour strike notice.

While the 257 Horseshoe Bay Express Bus could be affected by union actions, the on-island bus service will not be affected as it's operated by an outside contractor confirmed Bowen Island municipal councillor Alison Morse at the Monday evening council meeting. Morse is the BIM liason on the TransLink Mayors Council.

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Unifor, which represents over 5,000 bus drivers, Seabus operators and transit maintenance workers, said the notice was served after the transit company failed to address workers’ concerns about wages, working conditions and benefits during the latest round of negotiations.

“It’s not hard to understand what is happening here. The company is showing little respect for the difficult working conditions that our members must face every day,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, in a press release Monday evening. 

Earlier this month, members of Unifor locals 111 and 2200 – who have been working without a contract since March 31 – voted 99 per cent in favour of a strike mandate, after earlier talks had broken down.  

If an agreement isn’t reached between the union and Coast Mountain by Thursday at midnight, transit workers will go on strike.

This job action would affect transit services, and while the exact form of the action is not yet decided, the union said it could include a rolling strike or work-to-rule options.

“(Coast Mountain's) lack of movement leaves us little choice but to set a strike deadline,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor western regional director, in the press release.

In a statement posted online Monday evening, Coast Mountain said it has been working hard to renew its agreement with Unifor since August 1, and is ready to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible. 

"Over the last three years, Metro Vancouver's transit system has seen unprecedented growth, leading all transit agencies in Canada and the United States," reads the statement. 

Coast Mountain says it has been "implementing unprecedented and significant investments" to the region's bus service, including hiring over 1,000 bus operators in the past two years and estimates it will need to hire an additional 1,300 bus operators by 2021. 

"At this moment, there are no disruptions to service, but CMBC, (B.C. Rapid Transit Company), Transit Police and TransLink are working to develop a robust contingency plan to assist customers should a worst-case scenario unfold,"  says the statement. 

The last time transit workers held a strike was in 2001, when they walked off the job for four months and only returned to work when the province passed legislation to end the strike.

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