Vancouverites might find themselves with limited transit options on Friday.
On October 28, Metro Vancouver Transit workers took strike action against TranLink’s largest operating company, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC). Greater Vancouver drivers and maintenance workers are employed by the CMBC and have been without a contract since March 31.
Municipal bus drivers have stressed that they have not been allocated proper breaks and that their current wages and benefits aren’t adequate considering the service expansions that have taken place in the past three years.
“The main thing that we're hearing about is working conditions that’s known as recovery time, which is essentially minimum time that needs to be built into each run to make sure that the drivers can properly take a break and reset themselves,” said Unifor’s Western Regional Director and lead negotiator, Gavin McGarrigle.
McGarrigle told Vancouver Magazine that from 2016 to 2018 there was an 18-percent rise in transit ridership and a 36-percent increase in overcrowded buses—resulting in decreased rest times for bus drivers.
We reached out to CMBC management for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.
On October 10, two local transit unions (Unifor Local 111 and 2200) voted 99 percent in favour of strike action. Unifor Local 111 represents over 3,700 Metro Vancouver transit operators, including electric trolley bus and community shuttle drivers, while Local 2200 represent Seabus workers.
This past weekend, Unifor and CMBC failed to agree upon a new deal. On October 28, Unifor 111 and 2200 frustrations reached a boiling point and culminated in a 72-hour strike action notice. If an agreement cannot be reached between the two sides by 12:01 a.m. on November 1st, a transit strike would occur in Metro Vancouver.
“The last strike that we saw in transit was in 2001, and it was a four-month complete shut down of service. So far we have ruled out a full shut down at this particular stage," noted McGarrigle. "Our leadership team is meeting today and will consider what form of job actions will have the most impact on the company and the least impact on the travelling public."
If a strike were to occur on Friday, Vancouverites should expect either a work-to-rule, overtime ban or rolling strike. McGarrigle asserted that a full shut down remains an option if negotiations continue to stall.
“We have taken this step for the first time in 18 years because we thought that we were firmly far apart, but as a negotiator I always have to remain optimistic," McGarrigle said. "We're going to be back at the table tomorrow and work hard to close that gap and get to a fair deal.”