Transit labour dispute: Bus service next to be affected, says union
VANCOUVER - People can expect to see bus service cancellations starting later this week if the labour dispute involving transit workers isn’t resolved, according to the union.
Some SeaBus sailings have already been cancelled since job action started on Friday, when talks broke down between Unifor and the Coast Mountain Bus Company.
So far, job action has involved bus drivers not wearing uniforms and a ban on overtime for maintenance workers. Gavin McGarrigle with Unifor said unless something changes, their action will eventually escalate.
“(One) of the next phases that we’re looking at is an overtime ban for the operators. Our calculations are that will take out about 10 to 15 per cent of the system right away,” McGarrigle said.
Jonathan Cote, chair of the mayors' council and mayor of New Westminster, urged both sides to return to the table while speaking to media Monday morning, after it was announced that another six SeaBus sailings were cancelled.
He said the mayors are disappointed an agreement was not reached.
Cote said he believes operators deserve a fair settlement, but that he disagreed with Unifor's suggestion to scale back transit expansion plans to make up some of the gap.
"At a time when we are seeing record transit ridership growth in the region, at a time when us as a region are trying to deal with a climate emergency, and at a time when road congestion is such an important (issue), now is not the time to be talking about scaling back our plans to improve bus and transit service," he said.
The impact of implementing the union's $608 million proposal, he said, would be "very significant" in terms of service cuts, and could also impact transit fares.
"The reality is if this labour dispute is to escalate or become prolonged, everyone is going to lose, but the biggest losers will be our transit riders."
McGarrigle said Translink is trying to “scare the public.”
“If you’re basing a system where workers get no minimum level of break and you pay all over the map and not competitively, there’s something wrong with the way you’ve planned it,” McGarrigle said.
“Rather than lecturing the workers who make the system run, I’d like to know what Coast Mountain Bus Company’s plan is to end this.”
President and general manager of the Coast Mountain Bus Company Michael McDaniel said the money marked for transit expansion is needed to address overcrowding.
“We do want to put a fair and reasonable offer on the table for our workers. We feel we have that right now,” McDaniel said.
The union is asking for improved working conditions, as well as increases in benefits and wages. The most recent proposal would see maintenance trade employees given a 12 per cent raise, and operators' salaries boosted 9.6 per cent.
Current impact of job action
In the first few days of the strike, some riders are feeling the impact.
Transit takers who rely on the SeaBus to get home may face delays Monday evening. TransLink says six sailings between Vancouver and North Vancouver will be cancelled during the commute:
- 4:10 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 4:25 p.m. from Waterfront Station
- 6:20 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 6:35 p.m. from Waterfront Station
- 7:30 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 7:45 p.m. from Waterfront Station
SeaBus service was increased to every 10 minutes during rush hour as in September, but the strike has essentially ended TransLink's ability to keep up that schedule, a spokesperson said.
A union representative said SeaBuses must have an engineer on board, and overtime is necessary to provide increased service that started earlier this year.
Another 20 sailings were cancelled on Saturday, and 16 were scrapped Sunday.
The overtime ban also means that if a bus breaks down and there are no mechanics available to fix it during their regular hours, that bus will be parked until someone is free. It could cause delays and cancellations, as well as a ripple effect elsewhere in the system, union representative said.
The union said previously it's not ruling out a full strike. There are no talks scheduled at this point.