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SkyTrain strike averted: Last-minute deal reached, 'most sticking points' dealt with
Published Tuesday, December 10, 2019 4:16AM PST Last Updated Wednesday, December 11, 2019 1:25PM PST
VANCOUVER -- The SkyTrain will be running Tuesday morning after the two sides in Metro Vancouver's latest transit labour dispute managed to hammer out an eleventh-hour deal.
Representatives from CUPE 7000 and the B.C. Rapid Transit Company reached the tentative agreement during a marathon bargaining session in downtown Vancouver that began Monday morning and didn't wrap up until shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday.
"It's a good outcome. I think both sides should be commended for coming together, finding common ground, and getting a deal done in the interest of this region," TransLink's Ben Murphy said after the deal was announced.
As TransLink gets trains back up and running, Murphy warned that there may be some residual delays for those who rely on the earliest trains.
"Last night the system started going into shut down in anticipation of the three days of job action, so right now the system is in the process of powering back up," Murphy said in an interview with Sheila Scott on CTV Morning Live.
"That does take a little bit of time. Some safety checks have to be done, staff deployed. You have to open facilities and so forth."
Delays could last until mid-morning, officials said earlier, but TransLink posted on Twitter at 7:40 a.m. that regular service had resumed.
He said TransLink estimated delays of at least an hour as service got underway, so anyone relying on initial trains would be late.
A lot of key issues at play: union
Earlier in the morning, the president of the SkyTrain workers' union emerged with a smile on his face, and told reporters waiting for an update on the strike that he was glad the tentative deal had been reached.
"The details of the agreement will not be released until we have a ratification vote with our members, and for now, that's it. We're going to go back upstairs and finish the signing of the agreement, and we're going to go get some well-deserved sleep," CUPE 7000's Tony Rebelo said.
The union represents 900 attendants and control operators, as well as maintenance, administration and technical staff.
"Feeling good but feeling tired," he said, referencing that negotiations that wrapped around 5 a.m. had begun at 11 a.m. the day before.
When asked why it took so long, he said there were a lot of key issues at play.
"We were able to get through them, it just took a little bit longer than we hoped for … Most of the sticking points were dealt with," Rebelo said.
Rebelo said all SkyTrain employees were at work as of 5 a.m.
Employer thanks transit users for patience
In an emailed statement, the president of BCRTC provided few details but called the deal "great news" for those who use the SkyTrain.
"I thank all of our customers and staff for their patience through this uncertain time," Michel Ladrak said.
No way to replace SkyTrain system: TransLink
The deal prevents a planned three-day shutdown of the Expo and Millennium lines that TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond warned would have resulted in an "extremely disruptive" commute across the region.
"There is no way to replace a system that reliably moves 150,000 people per day each weekday," Desmond told reporters at a Monday news conference.
The SkyTrain strike would have put another 15,000 cars on the road during the morning commute alone, according to an estimate by TransLink analysts.
Compared to the labour dispute involving bus and SeaBus workers, which wrapped up last week with a new three-year collective agreement, few details about the union's demands were made public during the talks.
CUPE has said wages, sick days, staffing levels and overtime were key issues.
The workers' contract expired on Aug. 31, and the two sides met more than 40 times since May to negotiate a replacement.
Canada Line workers' contact up soon
While the threatened job action would not have impacted the Canada Line, CTV News reached out to the union representing those employees for an update on their contract.
A spokesperson said it expires at the end of the year, and the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union will be looking at negotiating a new one in 2020.
She did not say whether the union foresees any issues when it comes to future bargaining talks.
Read back through coverage from CTV News Vancouver journalists as they followed the morning commute: