The union representing TransLink’s bus drivers and SeaBus workers has announced the first step in strike action if a bargaining agreement isn’t met.
According to a press release from Unifor, if a tentative agreement is not reached by 8 am on Friday, November 1, the first step of the transit strike will be “a uniform ban by transit operators and an overtime ban by maintenance workers.”
That means that transit drivers on all routes would refuse to wear the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) uniform, and technicians and trade workers who work for CMBC would refuse overtime shifts.
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“Our number one goal is a fair contract that ensures our members are working under safe and reasonable conditions so they can best serve the public,” says Jerry Dias, Unifor’s national president, in the release. “To minimize the disruption to the public while still ramping up pressure on the employer, we have chosen a measured level of strike action in the first phase.”
According to Unifor, the overtime ban, if carried through, would “gradually increase pressure on the system” and would lead to fewer busses on roads, as well as potentially affecting SeaBus service.
“The system has normalized overtime, so without it, the turnaround for repairs and other maintenance will build up quickly,” writes Mike Smith, president of Unifor Local 2200 representing maintenance and Seabus workers. “We trust that Translink will not put unsafe vehicles back on the road, so it is a question of fewer vehicles available in the system.”
Coast Mountain Bus Company, on the other hand, says that their negotiations include “significantly better wages and benefits.”
Michael McDaniel, President of Coast Mountain Bus Company, also states that job action would only “punish transit users in Metro Vancouver” and says that “without maintenance overtime, we will see bus and SeaBus service cancellations, affecting customers.”
“CMBC is negotiating in good faith and has fair and reasonable offers recognizing the vital role our employees play in the region.”
McDaniel also claims that Unifor refused to participate in third-party mediation.
“CMBC is now back at the table and our current offer includes significantly better wages and benefits, and addresses working conditions. This package would be greater than most other public sector settlements in B.C. I urge the union to hold off on job action until a deal is done.”
Contract discussions will continue throughout the day on Thursday and into the evening, if necessary.
On October 10, union members delivered an overwhelming 99% strike mandate after negotiations for a new collective agreement broke off earlier this month.