A TransLink SeaBus. (TransLink)

A TransLink SeaBus. (TransLink)

SeaBus services cancelled on first day of Vancouver transit dispute

Strike expected to escalate in coming months if deal not reached

The first day of job action by transit workers in Metro Vancouver caused SeaBus cancellations on a busy commuter route across the Burrard Inlet.

TransLink said seven SeaBus round trips, totalling 14 sailings, were cancelled starting Friday afternoon and into the evening. The transit authority warned commuters to expect delays and to consider using buses instead.

READ MORE: Strike action begins among Metro Vancouver transit workers

The first stage of the job action included transit workers not wearing uniforms and refusing overtime.

Unifor, the union representing 5,000 transit workers, had predicted that maintenance workers’ refusal to work overtime could affect SeaBus service between Vancouver and North Vancouver by the afternoon rush.

Mike McDaniel, president of the Coast Mountain Bus Company, said further delays were likely on the weekend with about 30 sailings expected to be cancelled on Saturday and Sunday.

Unifor is asking for an additional $608 million in wages, benefits and improvements to working conditions over 10 years, he told a news conference.

McDaniel said the company’s current offer would increase maintenance workers’ wages 12.2 per cent and transit workers’ wages 9.6 per cent over four years. It would also enhance benefits and improve working conditions.

“We are OK with offering more than what the rest of the public sector gets in British Columbia, because we need to address the specific things that we’ve looked at doing,” he said.

“What that means, though, is that this is a more than reasonable offer we have on the table.”

McDaniel urged the union to avoid a walkout and resume talks, which broke off Thursday. Union representatives have refused the company’s suggestion of a third-party mediator to resolve the dispute, he added.

If the company were to give in to the union’s demands, the cost would compromise all planned transit upgrades over the next 10 years in Metro Vancouver, he said.

“We specifically want to use this money for what everybody is asking us to do with it: expand service, help control overcrowding, give more service because the demand is increasing,” he said.

The union’s chief negotiator, Gavin McGarrigle, said the $608 million figure needs to be placed in context of a $7.5 billion plan to improve the region’s transit over the next decade.

“We support transit expansion. The company is throwing around big numbers like that but you need to place it inside a multibillion-dollar transit expansion,” he said in an interview.

He also said it wasn’t fair to compare transit workers to public-sector employees because they’re not directly employed by the provincial government. TransLink receives funding from the municipal, provincial and federal governments, as well as through a gas tax, he said.

The wages of transit workers should be compared with other jurisdictions, such as Toronto where they earn about $3 more per hour, he said.

McGarrigle also said the company has not addressed a lack of guaranteed minimum breaks for transit workers during their shifts, which are 7 1/2 hours on average.

He told a news conference earlier Friday if the dispute drags on, buses requiring maintenance will likely have to be taken off the streets, further reducing service.

McGarrigle said his members have been without a contract since March and he warned the dispute could be lengthy.

“Our members are so determined this time. We’re prepared to wait this out, and if that means six months, nine months, a year, that’s what we are going to do and we are going to make sure we get that fair contract,” he told a news conference.

The last transit strike in Metro Vancouver was in 2001 when a four-month walkout crippled the commute for hundreds of thousands of people.

The job action will not affect West Vancouver’s blue bus system, SkyTrain services, or the HandyDart service for passengers with physical or cognitive disabilities.

Unifor and Coast Mountain said they will do their best to give passengers 24- to 48-hours notice of further service disruptions.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tom Jackson and bassist Kirby Barber in a trailer for "The Huron Carole," from video posted to youtube.com.
Tom Jackson’s ‘Huron Carole’ concert in White Rock goes virtual to feed hungry Canadians

Surrey broadcast date of Blue Frog-recorded show is Friday, Dec. 11, to benefit Surrey Food Bank

Pastry chef Eric Fernandez stands alongside some of his many creations at Popup Patisserie, a pop-up pastry shop on 176th Street that will be open until the end of December. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Popup Patisserie opens in Cloverdale

Handmade holiday pastries shop located on 176th Street

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
South Surrey woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Deb Antifaev

Fentanyl test strips are designed to work in seconds and give a person a negative or positive sign that fentanyl is present in a substance. It also works with other analogues such as carfentanil. (Photo: ASHLEY WADHWANI)
21 people died of overdoses in Surrey in October

Provincewide, more than five people died a day from overdoses

(Photo: Amy Reid)
VIDEO: 2020 Community Leader Awards recognize Surrey’s unsung heroes

They don’t often receive recognition and don’t necessarily have a high profile in the community

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Most Read