After the union representing bus drivers in Metro Vancouver announced this morning that plans are in place for a “system-wide shutdown” next week, the employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC), said it is “alarmed” by the decision.
“It is completely unacceptable our customers are being dragged into this dispute,” said CMBC President Michael McDaniel. “Coast Mountain Bus Company is addressing the union’s complaints about working conditions as well as providing generous wage increases beyond what’s in other public sector settlements in British Columbia.”
The union, he furthered, “is willing to disrupt lives of commuters to get the wages it wants.”
In a statement, CMBC said its current offer to the union includes guaranteed recovery time to ensure operators can rest as well as wage increases that include an increase for operators by about $6,100 over the next four years, and an increase to the top annual wage for skilled trades will increase by about $10,000 over the next four years.
CMBC said the union’s wage demands equate to about $150 million more over ten years than CMBC has offered.
“Accepting these demands could result in increases in fares, fees, and taxes or endanger plans for much needed service expansion,” said CMBC, adding that it is once again urging the union “to rethink its wage demands and return to bargaining.”
“System shutdown” scheduled for next week
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday morning, Gavin McGarrigle, the western regional director of Unifor, said that in the past few days, “it has become clear to us that TransLink has no intention of settling a fair contract for its workers.”
It is clear, he continued, “that they would rather pretend that there is no problem and deal with service disruptions by changing buses, rather than changing their bargaining approach. They would rather tell passengers to sign up for service alerts so they can find out which bus they will miss, instead of signing up for a fair collective agreement for its workers.”
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TransLink, he continued, “would like to blame the workers for higher taxes, fare increases, and service cutbacks, rather than blame the unaccountable, overpaid executives for remaining deaf to worker concerns and passenger crowding. TransLink tries to turn the public agains the workers by talking about gross wages over years and deliberately misleads by comparing transit workers to nurses and firefighters, instead of comparing transit workers to transit workers.”
Therefore, he said, “following the overtime ban which is still set to occur this Friday (November 22) – after that, and beginning one week from today, we will engage in a complete system shutdown next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.”
During this time, “no members of Unifor Local 111 and 2200 will report for work,” he furthered. “Picketing will begin at all locations, and we expect a complete shutdown of the bus system in Metro Vancouver as a result.”
Workers will return to their jobs and their “full-time duties after the three-day strike on Saturday, November 30, to ensure the system is running again in the weekend, and to start the following week.”
McGarrigle said the union has “made every effort to avoid escalating to this level, and although we know that this is a significant impact on passengers, the blame lies fully and squarely with TransLink.”
For every passenger affected, “the workers are fighting for a better system for all and more accountability for these overpaid [TransLink] executives.”