Transit union's demands equivalent to 5 years of service expansion: CMBC head

Nov 1 2019, 4:43 pm

The head of TransLink operating subsidiary Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) believes the proposed deal sought by Unifor for its members working as bus drivers and maintenance workers is “not financially sustainable and fiscally responsible.”

Both sides are $608 million apart in what they are willing to accept, with CMBC offering wage increases of approximately 10% and 12% for bus drivers and maintenance workers, respectively, over four years.

In contrast, the union sees a fair and reasonable deal for its workers is about 15.3% for bus drivers and 16.7% for maintenance workers over the same period, but this is also compounded and front loaded.

In an interview with Daily Hive, CMBC president Mike McDaniel says the employer’s offer amounts to a 2% annual wage increase, plus an additional bump that “lifts them more to remain competitive in the labour environment.”

“For some jobs, you recruit from around the world. For transit operators and trades, we compete in this local market,” he continued.

This is more than the deal of a 2% annual public sector increase over three years reached last year for nearly 200,000 employees of the provincial government.

He says this level of compensation puts local transit workers “in the middle” compared to what other major transit agencies in the country provide.

“The union needs to come back to the table and bargain a reasonable deal. Right now that’s not where their position is, it’s not even close,” said McDaniel.

“We need to get this deal done because we’re starting to disrupt service for commuters in this region, and as each day progresses, it is only going to get worse.”

Fulfilling all of the union’s demands would cost TransLink the equivalent of about five years worth of bus service expansion — approximately the same scope of Phase Two of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-year expansion plan.

“It’s not something we can do,” he said plainly.

It would likely require fare and property tax increases, and/or cuts to service expansion plans amidst soaring ridership growth year-over-year.

On the matter of working conditions, particularly a key issue of break times for bus drivers, CMBC is now willing to offer 60 minutes of recovery time built into employee schedules for those who driver for 7.5 hours in a day. This is up from the existing allocation of 48 minutes.

“We are going to enhance recovery times and we feel we need to enhance that. We will make sure that the times are scheduled throughout their shift, coming at different times and not just one time,” he said, adding that there will be no rest breaks under five minutes.

“It is many times throughout, depending on where their route goes… We are ensuring our operators have enough time to decompress, have a washroom break, and eat.”

Additionally, bus drivers will not be disciplined for taking more break time than scheduled to go to the washroom.

When it comes to other conditions such as protecting bus drivers from assaults, CMBC is gradually rolling out new bus driver protection barriers, after working closely with the union and WorkSafe BC to develop a prototype and implementation strategy. Over the last two years, over 350 of the 1,500 buses now have barriers installed, which is the new standard for all buses moving forward.

There are other features such as panic buttons, and situation training has been improved and modified.

This is the first labour action by bus and SeaBus workers since 2001. Labour action began today with a ban on uniforms for operators and overtime for maintenance hours, which particularly affected SeaBus today with the cancellation of 14 sailings during peak hours, reducing frequencies from every 15 minutes to 10 minutes.

The impact to service is expected to quickly escalate as more buses and ferries become inoperable from unmet maintenance.