SkyTrain union issues 72-hour strike notice

Dec 6 2019, 8:28 pm

At approximately noon today, the union representing SkyTrain’s Expo Line and Millennium Line workers announced a 72-hour strike notice to the employer.

This comes after four full days of mediation and more than 40 days of direct bargaining with little progress made on key issues, according to CUPE 7000, which represents the 900 workers on both SkyTrain lines.

Although both sides are still at the bargaining table, the union has ended mediation.

This development in the labour dispute between CUPE 7000 and BC Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC), the TransLink subsidiary that operates the Expo and Millennium lines, comes just a day after bus and SeaBus workers under Unifor approved a new agreement with their employer. A transit shutdown of bus and SeaBus services was averted last week when Unifor and TransLink subsidiary Coast Mountain Bus Company reached a tentative agreement.

“We are still committed to reaching an agreement at the table, and our committee will make itself available day and night, over the weekend, to reach a fair deal without any interruption of service,” said CUPE 7000 President Tony Rebelo in a statement.

“We will need to work very hard to reach a deal that addresses our concerns about wages, forced overtime, staffing levels and trades adjustment language, among other issues.”

SkyTrain workers under the union voted 96.8% for a strike on November 21. The union says the contract for station attendants and maintenance workers on the Expo and Millennium lines expired on August 31.

CUPE 7000 will issue an update at 11 am on Saturday to provide the public with details on the union’s labour action plan.

“The union has not informed BCRTC what form the job action would take nor when it might occur,” said Michel Ladrak, president of BCRTC.

“While we are disappointed by this development, BCRTC and CUPE will continue bargaining through the weekend. We are hopeful and committed to reaching a fair deal without disrupting the valuable service we provide to the residents of this region.”

In the worst-case scenario if a complete shutdown, TransLink would likely respond with an attempt to deliver a shuttle bus bridge service on a scale that has never been seen in the region. This is not to say that a fleet of buses can replicate the sheer ridership volumes of the Expo Line and Millennium Line.

In 2018, the Expo Line and Millennium Line systems saw a combined 348,000 boardings on an average weekday, 242,000 boardings on an average Saturday, and 186,000 boardings on an average Sunday and holiday.

BCRTC also has the West Coast Express under its mandate, but it is unaffected by the labour dispute as its operations are contracted to Bombardier.

The Canada Line, also deemed by TransLink as a SkyTrain line, is unaffected as well, as it is privately operated by ProTransBC, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, under a contract that expires in 2040.

Approximately 150 workers with the Canada Line are represented by the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU). In January 2015, Canada Line workers voted 99% in favour of labour action, after being without a contract since December 2013, but a strike was averted after both sides were able to come to an agreement shortly after the vote.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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