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Talks resume Saturday to avoid potential B.C. bus strike

A potential strike by more than 180 transit supervisors seeking a new contract in British Columbia's Lower Mainland could have a major effect on commuters next week, with the bus drivers' union saying it would back such action. A bus is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER - Negotiations to reach a pay deal for transit supervisors and avert a potential bus strike in British Columbia's Lower Mainland are set to resume.

The Coast Mountain Bus Company and the union representing more than 180 transit supervisors have both accepted an invitation from veteran B.C. mediator Vince Ready to return to the bargaining table Saturday.

Bus company president Michael McDaniel says in a statement he hopes an agreement can be made to avoid disruptions.

CUPE spokesman Greg Taylor confirms union negotiators will also be back at the table.

CUPE Local 4500, which represents the transit supervisors, has said it will be “withdrawing all services” on Monday for two days if an agreement isn't reached.

McDaniel has said the union is seeking a 25-per-cent wage increase, and a total shutdown of bus and SeaBus services is possible.

Any strike by the supervisors could have a major effect on commuters next week, with the bus drivers' union saying it would back the move.

The union representing the supervisors says its patience has "been exhausted" as it waits for the company to advance bargaining, and unless an agreement is reached, all services including the SeaBus will be suspended by 3 a.m. on Jan. 22.

“We regret the disruptions passengers will be experiencing, but we are out of options,” CUPE Local 4500 spokesman Liam O’Neill said in a statement.

“Unless Coast Mountain commits to ensure transit supervisors get the same wages as others doing similar work, and take our workload issues seriously, we are left with no choice.”

Unifor, which represents thousands of drivers and maintenance employees in Metro Vancouver, wrote to members this month saying they are expected not to cross the picket line if there is a full strike by the supervisors.

Unifor Locals 111 and 2200, which represent about 4,000 bus drivers and 1,100 skilled trades and support workers, say in their letter to members that they support the democratic bargaining process and the ability of unions to go on strike.

The letter is dated Jan. 5, the day before the transit supervisors started refusing overtime. It says members will also stop working in "acting" positions that are within CUPE's jurisdiction.

McDaniel has called the union's wage demand "unreasonable" and says it's double the increase that all other unions in the company have accepted.

"If the union proceeds with picket lines, there could be major impacts to our services up to a full shutdown of the SeaBus and bus system," he said in an earlier statement.

University of British Columbia spokeswoman Thandi Fletcher said in a statement that the university will not close in the event of a strike, but it's possible some classes will be shifted online.

"We are suggesting students look for communication from their instructors in advance of Monday to find out what the instructors are planning," she said.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade says it's concerned about the economic impact of the transit dispute.

It says "the possible two-day transit shutdown would have significant ramifications on our local economy and negatively impact the lives of the hundreds of thousands of residents and workers who rely on transit to get to and from work."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2024

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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