Vancouver transit dispute ramps up as premier warns against lengthy disruption - InfoNews

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Vancouver transit dispute ramps up as premier warns against lengthy disruption

A bus is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019. A transit strike remains in the air as talks between Vancouver bus drivers and their employee break down. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
November 08, 2019 - 10:16 AM

VANCOUVER - Bus service reductions or cancellations hit 25 of Metro Vancouver's busiest bus routes Friday as job action by Unifor maintenance workers and drivers entered a second week.

Translink says a majority of the reductions affected "high-frequency routes," including several servicing the University of British Columbia.

"Coast Mountain Bus Company is making every effort to ensure reliable service, but the union's job action will continue to have impacts on the system," said Translink in a statement.

A ban on overtime was imposed Nov. 1, when 5,000 mechanics and transit operators launched limited job action against Coast Mountain, which handles bus services on behalf of TransLink. The ban has been blamed for dozens of SeaBus route cancellations between Vancouver and the North Shore, and prompted bus delays or cancellations on several dozen bus routes for the first time on Thursday.

Wages, benefits and working conditions are key issues in the dispute.

"The union has been asked to return to bargaining and take part in mediation, but they have repeatedly refused," Coast Mountain said in a statement.

No talks have been held since Oct. 31, when negotiations collapsed, but Premier John Horgan warned both sides Thursday that a long dispute like the last strike in 2001 won't be tolerated.

"I'll remind you that the last time the Official Opposition was in government there was a four-month transit strike in Vancouver and I can assure you that won't happen on my watch," Horgan said while attending an event in Courtenay.

The comments came just a day after Horgan said collective bargaining should be allowed to run its course and his government had no immediate plans to intervene.

Unifor said bus disruptions Friday were linked to the overtime ban by maintenance staff and would affect 64 route segments.

If the overtime ban is extended to transit operators, Unifor lead negotiator Gavin McGarrigle has said it has the potential to immediately affect up to 15 per cent of bus service across the region.

The union did not anticipate any escalation of job action until at least after Remembrance Day, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2019.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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