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Transit strike: Hearing on possible SkyTrain disruption scheduled for Monday


A hearing to determine whether striking transit supervisors can picket outside SkyTrain stations has been scheduled for Monday, CTV News has learned.

If allowed, that escalation of CUPE Local 4500's ongoing job action would likely halt SkyTrain service across Metro Vancouver.

The matter will be decided by the Labour Relations Board, which is hearing a complaint from CUPE 4500 that the transit supervisors' employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company, tried to limit the impact of this week's strike.

The strike began at 1 a.m. Monday, shutting down the SeaBus and most of the region's bus service.

Should the complaint be upheld, it's expected the union would be allowed to picket other services, including SkyTrain – and the union representing SkyTrain employees has already said members will respect those picket lines.

The Labour Relations Board is expected to hear arguments over multiple days, and it's unclear how quickly a decision could be reached once the hearing concludes.

The transit supervisors' current strike is only scheduled to last 48 hours, ending at 3 a.m. Wednesday. TransLink has said it expects regular service to resume at that time.

But in the absence of a deal with Coast Mountain Bus Company, CUPE 4500 representative Liam O'Neill said the union will be planning "an escalation" of the job action.

The two sides in the dispute have not returned to the bargaining table since talks broke down over the weekend.

Coast Mountain has accused the union of making unrealistic wage demands, including raises of between 20 and 25 per cent over the next three years. The employer countered with 13.5 per cent, something spokesperson Mike Killeen argued was consistent with other recent collective agreements.

O'Neill called the employer's remarks a mischaracterization that "does not reflect the discussions that happened at the table."

He stressed that the union's main point of contention is a pay disparity between members and other supervisors employed by TransLink.

"When workers from one group do the same job as they do in another group, they should be paid the same wages," he said Monday. "If they're saying it's unrealistic to be paid fairly, that's fine, I'll let them say that."

While the striking supervisors are not responsible for hiring, firing or disciplining workers, unlike other unionized supervisors, O'Neill said the jobs are still "on par."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kaija Jussinoja Top Stories

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