Transit strike: Negotiations resume, but union threatens escalation if no deal reached
VANCOUVER – The union that represents Metro Vancouver transit operators headed back to the bargaining table after a stalemate that lasted over a week, but warned further job action is possible by Friday.
Unifor and the operators' employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company, agreed to meet Wednesday to resume negotiations that stalled late last month.
Speaking to media Tuesday, Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said striking employees were "deeply skeptical" of the offer from CMBC to resume talks.
"We will see whether or not the company is serious about achieving a resolution to this dispute, and if they are, bargaining can be wrapped up in a matter of hours," he said.
In an emailed statement Wednesday morning, CMBC president Michael McDaniel said the company is optimistic about finding common ground.
"We are open to improving our overall proposal at the bargaining table," he wrote.
"This includes building on the proposal we've already put forward to improve working conditions."
The union warned that if a deal isn't reached by the end of the week, the ongoing job action will escalate.
Transit users first felt the impact on Nov. 1, when the union implemented a ban on overtime for maintenance workers and bus drivers were told not to wear their uniforms. Several SeaBus sailings and bus trips were cancelled as a result of the overtime ban.
If the union and CMBC haven't come to an agreement by Friday, that ban will extend to bus drivers. McGarrigle threatened that job action would continue to escalate until a full strike occurs, if the two sides can't reach a deal.
CMBC said previously that there was $608-million gap between what workers are asking for in wages, benefits and working conditions and what their employer has offered in return. It has not provided a detailed cost breakdown of how it came to that figure.
The company said Wednesday that compromise will be necessary from the union and the employer, but that both sides want to find a solution that puts a stop to the strike.
"Further job action will continue to disrupt service and affect tens of thousands of transit users," McDaniel wrote.
On Wednesday, the following SeaBus trips were cancelled as a result of job action:
- 4:10 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 4:25 p.m. from Waterfront Station
- 5 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 5:15 p.m. from Waterfront Station
- 6 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 6:15 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
Bus service was also likely to see an impact Wednesday, though TransLink has not said specifically which routes have cancellations due to job action.
While no job action has been announced, talks with another transit workers' union broke down this week.
The group that represents about 900 SkyTrain attendants, operators and other employees said negotiations "reached an impasse" Tuesday.