City of Kelowna has few options in transit strike - InfoNews

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City of Kelowna has few options in transit strike

Members of the striking ATU local 1722 picketing at the Queensway Bus Exchange in Kelowna Nov. 10, 2016.
November 10, 2016 - 9:00 PM

KELOWNA – While the City of Kelowna says it will stay out the dispute between Central Okanagan bus drivers and the company that manages them, city staff are still keeping a close eye on what could be a long and protracted fight.

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 1722, which represents bus drivers and support staff from Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country, walked off the job this morning, Nov. 10 at 4:30 a.m. and at noon surrounded a neighbouring city works lot on Hardy Street.  

President Scott Lovell says forcing city workers to find last minute places to store their work vehicles is necessary in order to get the city’s attention.

Kelowna’s director of Human Resources, Stu Leatherdale, says they, like the rest of the city, knew trouble was brewing between the two sides and expected some form of action.

“We were a little bit surprised,” he says. “Their facility is right beside ours. We were thinking they would picket in front of the entrance maybe.”

The ATU members did allow workers in and out of the works lot, which is used to store everything from pickup trucks to heavy equipment used to maintain city water. More than 200 people work out of the location, according to Leatherdale.

It’s a bit disruptive because we're trying to figure out what to do with the vehicles right before a long weekend,” he says. “We’re like the whole community, we’re hoping the transit drivers and the company will work it out.”

Leatherdale says vehicles will be stored temporarily around the city. As many as 100 vehicles are stored at the lot.

City employees and contractors were told they can't park their vehicles at a works lot because of a dispute between local bus drivers and their employer.
City employees and contractors were told they can't park their vehicles at a works lot because of a dispute between local bus drivers and their employer.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says he’s received a few emails and messages on social media asking why the city isn’t getting involved.

“I have to tell them we can’t get involved,” he says. “It’s a really unfortunate situation and I understand transit riders’ frustration… but these aren’t city employees.”

Bus drivers in the Central Okanagan are employed and managed by First Canada, based out of Scotland. The company won the contract during a public bid and until that expires, members of the ATU local 1722, city staff and transit users are stuck with them.

City Council can’t even declare buses an essential service, as is the case with some HandiDart buses, which will continue to run during the strike.

“Even if we wanted to say it’s an essential service we don’t have that authority,” Basran says. “That belongs to the province but we’ll look at our rights because we have things to provide to our residents as a city. We’ll have to see how this impacts us going forward."

Leatherdale says his department is looking into the legality of the picket line.

"We are starting to think about what happens if it starts dragging out a little bit longer," he says. "We’re like the whole community, we're hoping the transit drivers and the company First Canada will work it out."


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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