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Check on elderly neighbours as Metro Vancouver transit shutdown looms: care providers

Three-day lockout by bus operators is imminent if an agreement is not reached between Unifor and Coast Mountain

People in Metro Vancouver are being asked to check on their elderly neighbours should the impending transit strike shut the system down next week.

That’s the word from B.C. Care Providers Association vice-president of public affairs Mike Klassen ahead of a three-day lockout planned by bus drivers from Nov. 27-29.

“It can just be as easy as calling them or knocking on the door or leaving them a note,” Klassen told Black Press Media by phone Thursday.

The association said its members, who provide care for around 11,000 people each year, are busy making arrangements for the shutdown, which would halt bus and SeaBus service for three days next week.

At issue in the dispute is break time and a $150-million gap between wages offered by the Coast Mountain Bus Company and ones requested by the bus workers’ union. Talks broke down last week and had not resumed as of Thursday morning.

Klassen said the impact of a three-day shutdown on seniors needing home support workers could be significant.

“For some employers, up to 40 per cent of home support workers do use the transit system to meet with clients,” he said.

He said TransLink has been communicating with them, but the transit agency’s spokesperson has said there’s not much they can do to mitigate the effects of a full employee walkout.

Care providers have options in the event of a short-term strike, he added, but those alternatives could become too expensive if it drags on.

“When we had some major weather activity a couple of years ago, and the buses were not running in some parts, it required hiring cars and drivers to be able to get people around,” Klassen said.

“Those are the kinds of things you can do in the short term, but if it goes on for the long term, there’s a real risk someone could be sitting at home not getting the services they need.”

HandyDart shuttles, which is not affected by the strike, are only available to those who meet the criteria of physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.

SkyTrain and Canada Line are not affected by the Unifor lockout, but SkyTrain workers are in the midst of their own contract negotiations, scheduled for set mediated talks in the coming days.

READ MORE: $150M sticking point: Coast Mountain, Unifor fight over wage gap as transit lockout looms

READ MORE: Workers union calls strike vote in SkyTrain labour dispute


@katslepian

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