SkyTrain strike would be "extremely disruptive": TransLink CEO

Dec 9 2019, 4:26 pm

With just over 12 hours to go until a planned three-day, system-wide shutdown of the SkyTrain Expo and Millennium Line, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said he is “hopeful that a deal can still be made.”

If it goes ahead, the strike would take effect at 5 am on Tuesday and last until 5 am this Friday.

This comes after mediation took place over the weekend, following four days of mediation last week, and after 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.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Desmond said the move to a full-scale strike “would be extremely disruptive.”

There is no way, he stressed, “to replace a system that reliably moves 150,000 people each weekday.”

Desmond said the issue will be compounded by the fact that many of SkyTrain’s regular users “will be left with no other options to get around the region.”

And those who are able to drive “may find that roads are more congested.”

During the strike, Desmond said services that will remain in operation include the following:

  • Canada Line
  • West Coast Express
  • Coast Mountain Bus
  • West Vancouver Blue Bus
  • HandyDART
  • SeaBus

“We want to make clear that given operational constraints and labour considerations, Coast Mountain bus service will be the same as any regular weekday.”

This, he said, means there won’t be anything like extra bus bridges in place between SkyTrain stations.

Still, Desmond said people do have options for getting around the region, should the strike go ahead.

This, he said, includes arrangements such as the following:

  • Using one of our park and rides to connect to bus service
  • Travelling outside of rush hours
  • Working from home
  • Using a carpooling service such as Liftango and gobyRIDE
  • Walking or cycling to work
  • Free bike valet service at Vancouver Public Library from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Those looking to plan a SkyTrain-free transit trip are advised to visit TransLink’s Trip Planner, which has an option to exclude SkyTrain.

In the meantime, Desmond said negotiations between the union and the employer “may last well into the night, as they did with the bus bargaining a week and a half ago.”

As such, Desmond said he is “urging both parties to come together to reach a deal.”

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.