Transit strike: Vancouver could be 'hardest hit' as job action escalates, TransLink warns
VANCOUVER – Uncertainty is looming across Metro Vancouver's transit system as contract talks broke down again Thursday, but TransLink says Vancouver could be the hardest hit as job action escalates.
After walking out of negotiations with Coast Mountain Bus Company Thursday, Unifor said drivers will not be working overtime on Friday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week.
The two sides had resumed bargaining on Wednesday, for the first time since talks broke down in late October, which prompted the beginning of the job action on Nov. 1. At the start, the overtime ban only applied for maintenance workers, while bus drivers observed a uniform ban.
That overtime ban affected traffic in downtown Vancouver during Thursday's rush hour as a bus brought down some wires near Seymour and Robson streets.
"Crews on scene have made the area safe and traffic can soon flow, but the repairs won’t be made until tomorrow due to the union’s ban on maintenance overtime," said TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews in an email Thursday night. "Buses will be on detour around it until the repairs are complete."
Friday morning the 3, 17 and 20 buses were still all being detoured ahead of repairs.
The extent of Friday's impact is still unknown with escalated action, but TransLink says reduction in service should be expected.
"Our initial numbers suggest Vancouver is being hardest hit by this job action. We're seeing dozens of cancellations, possibly more," said TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy on CTV Morning Live.
"From TransLink's perspective, we want this all to come to an end and the way that happens is for the union to go back to the table with a reasonable wage offer."
A full list of alerts and bus cancellations can be found on TransLink's website.
Meanwhile, the SeaBus has 10 cancellations on Friday. The following sailings were cut:
- 7:20 a.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 7:35 a.m. from Waterfront Station
- 9 a.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 9:15 a.m. from Waterfront Station
- 4:10 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay
- 4:25 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
Uncertainty has also grown about the region's SkyTrain system, as CUPE 7000, which represents 900 SkyTrain attendants, operators and other workers, took a step back on Tuesday, saying negotiations had reached "an impasse."
The union has been without a contract since Aug. 31. CUPE 7000 president Tony Rebelo told CTV News in an interview Wednesday that there were some key issues the two sides were far apart on.
Sticking points for the union include wages, overtime, sick time and staffing levels. He said they're so short staffed the operations department requires overtime "daily just to run the system."
Between Unifor and CMBC, the two sides reached an impasse when it came to compensation.
The union said the company isn't willing to look at wage comparisons with SkyTrain maintenance workers and Toronto transit operators, which they said is a difference of about $3 an hour.
"They made it very clear that, as we suspected, and unfortunately for the passengers that we serve, they are still not serious about addressing the outstanding issues," said Gavin McGarrigle with Unifor.
Coast Mountain Bus Company president Michael McDaniel said the company's wage offer hasn't changed from a 9.6 per cent increase for bus drivers and a 12 per cent increase for tradespeople.
"It's very difficult for us at this point in time to move off the current wage proposals that we have, given that it is so far in excess of the public sector settlements in British Columbia today," McDaniel said.
The company said the increase it's offering would add up to a top annual wage for drivers of $69,900, following a raise of $6,100 over four years. The top annual wage for trades workers would be $88,000, following a raise of $10,000 over four years.
"We remain able to get back to the table whenever the union is more realistic about their wage demands," McDaniel said. "We are available at any time."
The union said the overtime ban for drivers will have "significant impacts on the travelling public," and continue to warn their job action will eventually increase to a full-scale strike at some point.
No additional talks have been scheduled.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Emad Agahi, Kendra Mangione and Maria Weisgarber