As transit workers in Metro Vancouver enter their fourth day of job action, the chair of the regional Mayors’ Council said he is “disappointed” by the fact that the two sides have not yet been able to reach an agreement.
In a statement on Monday, New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said that being a regular transit user himself, he knows “how hard our bus employees work to deliver transportation services to our region’s residents and I believe they deserve a fair settlement.”
Last Friday, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) said there is a significant difference between what the union representing TransLink’s bus drivers and SeaBus workers is seeking over the next decade and what CMBC said it is able to provide over the same time period.
The offer given by the union is $680 million across 10 years, while CMBC’s offer represents $71 million over the same time period – a $608 million gap.
In an interview with Daily Hive, CMBC president Mike McDaniel said 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.
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Coté said he’s disappointed “to hear Unifor leadership suggest that bus expansion be scaled back in order to pay for their wage demands.”
Scaling back transit expansion in this region, he added, “is completely off the table.”
“The Mayors’ Council has worked almost single-mindedly the past four years to improve and expand our transit network through its 10-Year Vision,” said Coté. “Well over 90% of the bus service expansion we have approved in the first two phases of the Vision in 2017 and 2018 has been directed at our most overcrowded routes to provide more frequency and more passenger capacity.”
If the Mayors’ Council were to roll back these bus service improvements in order to pay for what the union is asking, he continued, “bus overcrowding would increase, which is exactly what union leaders claim they want to see reduced.”
Moving forward from this point, Coté said he’s “asking both sides to return to the bargaining table and for Unifor to put an end to job action which is impacting commuters and some of the most vulnerable residents in our region who rely on public transit.”
Coté said he – along with the rest of the Mayors’ Council – “wants to see the parties involved in this dispute to “reach a fair and reasonable agreement as quickly as possible.”