Union says TransLink's comments have slowed negotiations ahead of SkyTrain strike
VANCOUVER -- The union representing SkyTrain workers is accusing TransLink of slowing down bargaining ahead of a three-day strike that is set to start on Tuesday.
- SkyTrain strike: Which lines are affected and how to get around
The union and the employer, BC Rapid Transit Company, have been bargaining for days but have failed to make progress on key issues. On Saturday, the union representing SkyTrain workers announced workers would walk off the job starting on Tuesday at 5 a.m. and ending Friday at 5 a.m.
Ben Murphy, the spokesperson for TransLink, told CTV News on Sunday that was going too far, and the union could have chosen an initial job action that would have been less disruptive for commuters.
“The union needs to actually come out and address that head on and explain why they’ve gone with a nuclear option here of a full three day system shut down which is going to cause enormous disruption,” he said.
Tony Rebelo, president of CUPE 7000, said the union chose a full shutdown because of concerns that if an emergency situation happened, there would not be enough staff to handle it.
But Murphy doesn’t buy that explanation.
“Why not do one day? Why not do a stoppage for an hour at lunch time?” Murphy said. “I mean that’s not going to compromise safety. That’s a nonsense argument they’re putting forward.”
After media outlets published Murphy's statements, Rebelo fired back, calling the comments "inaccurate" and "incendiary."
“In my own statements to date, I have maintained a tone of respect throughout. So it is unfortunate that TransLink has chosen to go down this road. Such comments about our members do nothing to further bargaining and on the contrary have slowed down the process for both parties,” said Rebelo.
“Our focus remains getting an agreement as the number one priority. We remain committed to negotiating for a new contract at the bargaining table and reaching a deal with no disruption of service.”
The union is standing firm on its pledge to strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday if they and the employer do not come to an agreement. Rebelo said the union will not be making any further statements to the media until further notice.
Caught in the middle are the 150,000 Metro Vancouver residents who depend on SkyTrain every weekday.
Bernadett Kojetinszki is a single mom who lives in Burnaby and works two jobs to take care of her teenaged boys.
“I’m cleaning different places in downtown and plus I have another job in Burnaby,” she told CTV News.
Kojetinszki depends on SkyTrain to get to each job. When asked how she would navigate a SkyTrain shut down she said, “I’m not sure. I'm probably [going to lose] money because I have to take cabs.”
The University of British Columbia, B.C. Institute of Technology and Kwantlen University have all said if the job action goes ahead the universities will operate as normal and scheduled exams will proceed. University students are currently in final exams, and many have taken to Twitter to air their grievances.
And while TransLink is looking for other options for commuters, Murphy warns the bus system cannot replace the Expo and Millennium lines.
“We cannot implement bus bridges to replace Expo and Millennium lines given labour laws,” he said. “So we are looking at contingency options and suggestions for people on what can be done – but realistically there are very limited options.”
TransLink will provide “stored value credit” to monthly pass holders should the job action go ahead, but only if they don’t use their Compass card for other transit options on those days.