VANCOUVER – The union representing Metro Vancouver transit operators says it's prepared to go back to the bargaining table, but if a deal isn't reached in the first couple days, it's prepared to escalate job action by Friday.

Unifor's western regional director said Tuesday that he was "deeply skeptical" of an offer from employer Coast Mountain Bus Company to discuss the union's demands, but that he had agreed to resume negotiations Wednesday morning.

"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," Gavin McGarrigle said at a news conference.

"We are also serving notice today that if the company is not serious and continues to avoid a fair collective agreement on all issues, we will escalate job action beginning this Friday."

Strike action first began Nov. 1 after talks between the union and CMBC broke down.

The two sides remained at a stalemate since then, with CMBC claiming there's a $608-million gap between what workers are asking for and what their employer has offered in return.

So far, workers remain on the job, but bus drivers aren't wearing uniforms, and the union has banned overtime for maintenance workers.

McGarrigle said the next phase would be an overtime ban for all drivers on Friday. If a solution isn't reached, drivers may be instructed to refuse overtime shifts again next week.

"Ultimately, disruption will continue to escalate until a full strike will occur," he said.

He called on transit riders to pressure TransLink and CMBC into reaching a deal with the union, and announced a billboard campaign that will see posters put up in high-traffic areas of the region.

"We're just serving notice that to the public that: Prepare for Friday. Send the messages to the company now. Tell them you don't want to see an escalation," McGarrigle said.

"But honestly, if we go back to the table and we find out that they're playing games, our members will be even more firm and determined from ever before, and as we move into the following week, we'll consider more aggressive forms of action."

The bus company said it welcomed the offer to resume talks this week. In an emailed statement, CMBC president Michael McDaniel said the company is encouraged by the development.

"I'm optimistic that we can find common ground to ensure this can continue. Given the formal bargaining process is set to resume, we will not be providing further comment," McDaniel said.

Unifor's announcement came as transit users dealt with the impact of ongoing job action.

TransLink said six SeaBus trips would be wiped from the schedule between 4:10 p.m. and 9:01 p.m.

A spokesperson for the company said bus routes were affected Tuesday morning, but that the issues were "minimal."

There were cancellations on the following routes due to job action:

  • 10 Granville/Downtown
  • 100 22nd Street Station/Marpole Loop
  • 106 New Westminster Station/Edmonds Station
  • 123 New Westminster Station/Brentwood Station
  • 151 Coquitlam Central Station/Burquitlam Station
  • 160 Port Coquitlam Station/Kootenay Loop
  • 401 Richmond-Brighouse Station/One Road
  • 410 Richmond-Brighouse Station/22nd St Station
  • 701 Haney/Maple Ridge East/Coquitlam Station

SeaBus cancellations for Tuesday are:

  • 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

There were significantly fewer cancellations than on other days, including last Friday when 16 trips were removed from the schedule.

This is a developing news story and will be updated.