Striking bus drivers call for new transit authority for Central Okanagan - InfoNews

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Striking bus drivers call for new transit authority for Central Okanagan

ATU local 1722 members outside Kelowna City Hall Nov. 11, 2016.
November 18, 2016 - 2:30 PM

FIVE YEARS LEFT ON CONTRACT WITH FIRST CANADA

KELOWNA – The president of the union representing striking Kelowna bus drivers is calling for a major change in how local transit is managed.

Scott Lovell is the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 1722 that represents bus drivers and support staff in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and Peachland. On strike more than a week now, the union says the current system makes negotiation impossible.

“This is an out-of-country company that takes our money and sends it to Scotland,” Lovell says. “They’re getting paid almost the same amount whether the buses run or not so there’s no incentive for them to come back to the table.”

The union have been asking for the same pay regardless of bus size, a tiered wage system and some form of retirement package from their employer, First Canada who is contracted to run the Central Okanagan system for B.C. Transit.

This, says Kelowna mayor Colin Basran, is why the city can’t get involved.

“First Canada was selected through an open and transparent bidding process by B.C. Transit to provide transit services in the Central Okanagan,” he says in a letter sent to media. “There are five years remaining on that contract.”

Basran says he will continue to put pressure on B.C. Transit and First Canada but beyond that there are few options.

Lovell disagrees.

“The city can say to B.C. Transit that they need to cancel this contract and take it over for themselves,” he says.

Basran says the cost to operate the Central Okanagan system is roughly $20 million, with half coming from the province via B.C. Transit and the other half split between the six municipal partners, as well as from transit fares.

“Thanks to provincial funding, we have been able to grow transit service in this way since 1977,” Basran says in the letter. “Yes, the municipal 'partners' provide significant funding, but as the primary funder, B.C. Transit has final say in most decisions."

"More local autonomy and control over how and where the provincial funds are spent is something the municipal partners continue to advocate for. But setting up a regionally owned and operated transit service is not something the municipal partners are considering at this time, as it would require significant tax increases.”


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