Striking transit workers in Metro Vancouver will effectively shut down the bus system in the region for three days next week by refusing to come to work if a deal is not reached in ongoing negotiations with Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC), their union announced Wednesday.
Unifor said its bus drivers and mechanics will not report to work next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as the next step in ongoing job action, which is into its 20th day without resolution.
"We expected them to come to the table, listen to the public, listen to the workers and get it done," Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle told reporters at a media conference Wednesday, backed by workers in red Unifor gear.
"We have made every effort to avoid this level, but the blame lies fully and squarely with TransLink," McGarrigle said.
Dozens of Unifor employees gathered in the conference room whistled and cheered after the announcement finished, starting a chant and applauding McGarrigle.
CMBC 'alarmed' by escalation
Unifor workers have been refusing overtime on a rotating basis since Nov. 1 after contract talks broke off. Wages are the sticking point in the dispute with CMBC, which operates bus and SeaBus services for TransLink, the regional transit authority.
"If they come to the table with a reasonable offer, we'll get this thing done ... the ball is in their court," McGarrigle said.
The union has said CMBC remains unwilling to discuss wages, a key issue in the dispute, while the company insists its proposal is well above increases offered to other public-sector workers in the province.
Unifor has said they are seeking a wage increase that would bring their workers closer to those in other major regions, like Toronto.
In a written statement, CMBC said it is "alarmed" by the union announcement, and that it is leaving hundreds of thousands of customers without service while it refuses to accept a "historic" contract offer.
CMBC president Michael McDaniel wrote in the statement that the company has been "addressing the union's complaints about working conditions as well as providing generous wage increases."
A shutdown next week would affect TransLink's bus and SeaBus services. The following services in Metro Vancouver would be unaffected:
- Canada Line
- West Coast Express
- West Vancouver Blue Bus
- Other contracted services
SkyTrain strike vote underway
As one Metro Vancouver transit union gets set to escalate its strike action, another is taking a strike vote, adding to the potential for chaos for local commuters.
CUPE 7000 represents about 900 SkyTrain workers and announced Tuesday a strike vote is underway for its members.
A statement from CUPE said the B.C. Rapid Transit Company, which operates SkyTrain on behalf of TransLink, turned down its latest proposal for new bargaining dates, setting off the strike vote.
The union said the vote will be complete by Thursday and results will be announced shortly afterward.