Transit passengers brace for bus, SeaBus shutdown as last-minute negotiations resume
BURNABY, B.C. -- Nov. 27 update: Tentative deal struck, Vancouver bus strike averted
Many people who rely on transit say they are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst as the union representing bus drivers and maintenance workers prepares to resume negotiations with Coast Mountain Bus Company Tuesday.
The last-minute talks are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in downtown Vancouver. There is a 10-hour time window for the two sides to hammer out a deal, with employees planning to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday if an agreement isn't reached.
If the strike goes ahead, it will last three days —from Wednesday to Friday — with workers planning to return to work on Saturday
The last time the two sides met was on Nov. 14, but those talks broke down.
Unifor's national president, Jerry Dias, will be part of Tuesday’s negotiations.
CMBC, which is the contract operator for TransLink, says the two sides are about $150 million apart over a 10-year period.
On Monday, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond insisted the current offer on the table is fair.
"The union's planned strike set to start on Wednesday will have a devastating impact on the people of Metro Vancouver," Desmond said. "The hardest hit will be felt by some of the most vulnerable people in our region, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with no other options."
Unifor did not appear hopeful on Monday that a deal will be reached.
"I remain pessimistic that they have got the message, but the pressure on them is building," Unifor’s western regional director Gavin McGarrigle told reporters on Monday. "We are going back to the table hoping for a fair deal, but preparing for the worst. We are going back to the table out of respect for the passengers that we serve."
Many transit passengers CTV News spoke with at Lougheed Town Centre Station in Burnaby Tuesday morning said they have already come up with alternate plans instead of using the bus, but many plan to rely heavily on SkyTrain.
Some plan to get rides to SkyTrain stations, while others plan to walk — but some don't have that option.
"I'm really worried because I won’t be getting to work if that's the case," one bus user told CTV. "Three days off at Christmas that I can’t afford."
Many others are worried about crowding on SkyTrain, which will continue to run if the strike goes ahead.
There are also concerns about cold weather forecast this week for those who will be walking or who may be left waiting for cabs outside.
TransLink is working on a contingency plan to deal with the large crowds expected on SkyTrain.
There will be extra trains on the Expo and Millennium lines during off-peak hours when additional train cars are available. Bikes will be allowed on board during peak periods for those who can cycle to SkyTrain stations, instead of taking the bus.
Loading zones are also being set up a SkyTrain and Westcoast Express stations for those who can be dropped off. Additional SkyTrain personnel and transit police have also been called in to help if needed.
The strike expected to impact about 350,000 people every week day if it goes ahead.