Kelowna residents breathe sigh of relief as buses resume service | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna residents breathe sigh of relief as buses resume service

A student catches the bus in downtown Kelowna, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 for the first time in two weeks. Students make up the majority of public transit users and those at the UBC Okanagan campus had the hardest time during the 2016 Central Okanagan Transit strike.
November 24, 2016 - 4:30 PM

KELOWNA – The bus strike ended just in time for Verna Simard. She has to get to the hospital.

Living in a motel, she hasn’t been in Kelowna long and her family are scattered around the world.

And yesterday she was hit by a car.

“I would have cried,” she says of what she’d have done had the strike gone on any longer. “I can barely walk.”

Simard is like hundreds of other Central Okanagan residents who, for the last two weeks, had to make do without public transit. She struggles to get on the bus, filled mostly with students who flashed bus passes at the driver. 

"Welcome back," one said as he boarded.

Amir Mohammed is a third year biology student at UBC Okanagan. For the last two weeks he’s been making use of a Facebook group that morphed into a ride share bulletin board for students.

Students have been particularly affected over the past two weeks. Mohammed says he only missed two classes while the strike was on but getting around was much harder.

“You have to get rides where you can,” he says. “Sometimes that means waiting for a long time or they don’t show up and you have to find another way.”

B.C. Transit contracts bus management to First Canada and on Nov. 23 they announced that a deal had finally been struck between the two parites. And even though it meant buses would be back on the roads the very next day, not everyone was happy, according to ATU president Scott Lovell.

“The response has been mixed,” Scott says. “If you look at the fact that is a 61 per cent acceptance rate, that’s not good. But it hasn’t hit yet how enormous a deal (equal pay regardless of bus size) is. That’s going to take some time.”

Almost 40 per cent of members voted to reject First Canada’s offer and Lovell says a lot of the drivers were disappointed they didn’t get more out of the deal.

Details of the new four-year contract have not yet been made public, but Lovell says they were able to get equal pay regardless of bus size, which was one of their three core demands.

"It is what it is," he says. "The important thing is that we are back in the community where we belong."

For Simard, the strike ended just in time.

“Of course it’s a relief,” she says, adding even one more day would have had a big impact on her.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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