VANCOUVER – Bus riders should prepare for delays Friday as job action by striking transit workers ramps up.

Unifor said bus drivers will not be working overtime on Friday, nor on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week.

The escalation in job action comes after contract talks between the union and Coast Mountain Bus Company came to an end Thursday morning, after just over an hour at the table.

The two sides had resumed bargaining on Wednesday, for the first time since talks broke down in late October, which prompted the beginning of the job action on Nov. 1.

Gavin McGarrigle with Unifor said despite some progress being made on working conditions and a long day of negotiations on Wednesday, the two sides hit a sticking point when it comes to compensation.

“They made it very clear that, as we suspected, and unfortunately for the passengers that we serve, they are still not serious about addressing the outstanding issues,” McGarrigle said.

The union said the company isn’t willing to look at wage comparisons with SkyTrain maintenance workers and Toronto bus drivers, which they said is a difference of about three dollars an hour.

“They need to get serious about addressing those issues and stop the game-playing," McGarrigle said. "Unfortunately, they were at it again and it’s very disappointing."

Coast Mountain Bus Company president Michael McDaniel said the company's wage offer hasn’t changed from a 9.6 per cent increase for bus drivers and a 12 per cent increase for tradespeople.

“It’s very difficult for us at this point in time to move off the current wage proposals that we have, given that it is so far in excess of the public sector settlements in British Columbia today,” McDaniel said.

The company said the increase it’s offering would add up to a top annual wage for drivers of $69,900, following a raise of $6100 over four years. The top annual wage for trades workers would be $88,000, following a raise of $10,000 over four years.

“We remain able to get back to the table whenever the union is more realistic about their wage demands," McDaniel said. "We are available at any time."

The union said the overtime ban for drivers will have "significant impacts on the travelling public," and continue to warn their job action will eventually increase to a full-scale strike at some point.

Up until now, job action has only involved drivers not wearing uniforms and maintenance workers refusing overtime, which has led to some SeaBus and bus service cancellations.

TransLink is telling bus riders to prepare for disruptions throughout the day, and estimates that the ramped-up job action will reduce bus service by up to 10 per cent. The transit service adds people can expect overcrowding and gaps in service on some routes. Customers are being told to give themselves extra time to get to where they’re going.

Thursday's transit impact

SeaBus cancellations were still on the schedule for Thursday. The following six sailings were cut:

  • 4:10 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
  • 4:25 p.m. from Waterfront Station
  • 7:32 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
  • 7:46 p.m. from Waterfront Station
  • 8:47 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
  • 9:01 p.m. from Waterfront Station

TransLink also warned that some bus routes would see "reduced frequency."

SkyTrain workers' negotiations stalled

Transit users are in the middle of what could be the perfect storm.

CUPE 7000, which represents 900 SkyTrain attendants, operators and other workers, took a step back on Tuesday, saying negotiations had reached "an impasse."

The union has been without a contract since Aug. 31. CUPE 7000 president Tony Rebelo told CTV News in an interview Wednesday that there were some key issues the two sides were far apart on.

Sticking points for the union include wages, overtime, sick time and staffing levels. He said they're so short staffed the operations department requires overtime "daily just to run the system."

"It's going to become a safety issue and we keep telling this to the company that you need to bring the levels of staffing up," Rebelo said.

Kasia Dybisz is a student and has to commute between Surrey and Burnaby. She uses both buses and SkyTrain to get around.

"There was a couple of days where we were actually stressed about whether we'd be able to get to lectures or not," Dybisz told CTV News.

She's an international student and doesn't have alternative travel options, she said, so figuring out alternate ways to get around has been a challenge.

Rebelo said there's no plan for job action yet.

"We're just holding the information meetings and taking direction from our members," he said, adding the union should have a better idea on the plan moving forward sometime next week.

In a statement to CTV News, president of BC Rapid Transit Company Michel Ladrak said the employer remained committed to finding a solution, and has suggested mediation.

"The offer we have put forward aligns with public sector settlements in British Columbia today. We are open to further discussing what has been offered and urge the union to continue negotiating with us," he said.