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

B.C. researchers are asking for the public’s help in monitoring the bat population. (Cathy Koot photo)
Semiahmoo Peninsula residents asked to monitor bat activity

Researchers keeping eye on spread of white-nose syndrome

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

RCMP are looking for “an unknown man who wrapped his arms around” a female youth in Clayton Feb. 26. (Black Press file photo)
Youth assaulted by unknown man in Cloverdale

Mounties looking for ‘tall and thin’ Caucasian man in his 40’s with short dark brown hair

Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Crown says defence case epilepsy caused fatal Surrey crash fails on balance of probabilities

‘She very clearly had some form of control over that vehicle,’ Crown argues

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for missing Chilliwack woman sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother Shaelene Bell

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

Most Read