Transit workers escalate job action as negotiations in Vancouver break off again

Nov 14 2019, 8:35 pm

After warning of further escalation in its job action if a deal couldn’t be reached, the union representing bus drivers in Metro Vancouver said talks with the employer had broken off again on Thursday.

Earlier this week, union lead negotiator Gavin McGarrigle said that if no deal was reached this week, bus drivers would be “instructed to stop accepting overtime for all shifts that occur this Friday.”

From there, he continued, “we will also consider additional days next week and in the weeks to come where drivers will join with maintenance workers on the overtime ban.”

Ultimately, he stressed, service disruptions “will continue to escalate until a full strike will occur.”

Talks broke off on Thursday — the 14th day of job action — after no agreement between the two sides could be reached.

In a statement, the union said TransLink’s refusal to deal with the key bargaining issues has resulted in the mutual agreement to discontinue contract talks that began again this morning, and a continuation of service disruption for passengers.

“TransLink seems content to play games while tens of thousands of transit passengers’ lives are impacted daily,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Transit workers want to sign a new contract, but TransLink isn’t interested in anything remotely fair.”

This past Tuesday, Unifor said if new talks did not result in progress on the core issues, job action would escalate this Friday, November 15, with a one-day transit operator overtime ban.

The union also announced that transit operator overtime bans will continue on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of next week. Further overtime bans could be repeated each week going forward.

“TransLink simply doesn’t treat its workers fairly,” said McGarrigle. “They divide their workers into separate companies and tell skilled trades not to compare their wages with each other.”

In the employer’s mind, said McGarrigle, “a comparison to Toronto’s transit system is fine for executive wages, but it’s somehow offside for transit operators.”

On Thursday afternoon, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) President Michael McDaniel said the company is  is disappointed an agreement couldn’t be reached at the bargaining table.

According to CMBC, the “enhanced proposal” includes guaranteed recovery time, as well as previously offered wage increases which are more generous than other public sector settlements in British Columbia.

This proposal directly focuses on working conditions,” he furthered. “This is the exact issue the union has asked us to improve.”

Wage demands “beyond what have already been offered,” he said, “will come at the expense of services for customers.” As such, McDaniel said a “realistic ” deal is needed.

CMBC said their latest offer includes new measures to address working conditions, something the union has said is a top priority. The company said that once its proposal is fully implemented:

  • Transit operators would be guaranteed at least 40 minutes of recovery time for every scheduled shift.
  • Under regular road conditions transit operators would be paid double time for any minute of recovery time they don’t receive under 40 minutes.

The proposal also clarifies that operators are permitted to use a washroom whenever necessary.

In addition, the union said the offer includes an increase in the top annual wage for operators by about $6,100 over the next four years, bringing their annual salary to$69,900. It also said the top annual wage for skilled trades will increase by about $10,000 over the next four years, bringing their annual salary to $88,000.

More to come…

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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