The union representing TransLink’s bus and SeaBus employees says negotiations are continuing with Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) in a bid to improve working conditions and benefits.
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In an email, Unifor spokesperson Kathleen O’Keefe told Daily Hive negotiation meetings between both parties are scheduled for October 24, 25, and 28.
While 99% of 5,000 union members voted for a strike mandate on October 10, labour action has not begun. The union is required to provide at least 72-hours notice of any strike action affecting bus and SeaBus services.
SkyTrain and West Coast Express workers are unaffected by the dispute.
The union says its members have been working without a contract since March, claiming CMBC — the TransLink subsidiary that operates the bus and SeaBus services — has not satisfied their key issues on wages, benefits, and working conditions.
According to the union, its members, particularly bus drivers, are under pressure as a result of an understaffing issue.
TransLink has been rolling out new and improved bus services to keep up with demand. Systemwide ridership across the transit network increased by 18% between 2016 and 2018, but the public transit authority has been unable to keep up with ridership demand and the pace of new hires required.
Overall, labour market reports indicate Metro Vancouver businesses — especially retail and restaurants — and public sector organizations have been struggling to fill positions due to the labour shortage.
As of February 2019, TransLink’s conventional bus drivers have a starting salary of $22.83 per hour during their 30-day training period, increasing to $24.46 per hour for the first eight-month period, $26.09 per hour for the second eight-month period, $29.35 per hour for the third eight-month period, and $32.61 per hour after 24 months.
Benefits include comprehensive medical, dental, and vision benefits, as well as paid vacation, a pension plan, and a bus pass for both the worker and one family member.
CMBC workers under Unifor also voted to strike in 2016, but labour action was quickly avoided after both parties came to a post-vote agreement.