A bus is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A bus is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Union, Coast Mountain head back to the bargaining table as bus walkout looms

Bus drivers, maintenance workers say they’ll walk off the job Wednesday

Unifor has headed back to the bargaining table with the Coast Mountain Bus Company on Tuesday in hopes of striking a deal before bus service is set to shut down.

Western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said Monday they are prepared to bargain “around the clock” to reach a deal.

Meanwhile, TransLink’s CEO said 100,000 people who have no alternative to taking the bus to work in Metro Vancouver could be stranded if the strike goes ahead this week.

Kevin Desmond called on both sides in the ongoing labour dispute to return to the table to avert the “unnecessary” job action.

Speaking at the Waterfront SkyTrain Station in Vancouver Monday, Desmond said bargaining would only work if both sides came back to the table “without any preconditions.”

Unifor, which represents 5,000 bus drivers and skilled trades people working for Coast Mountain, has been engaging in job action since Nov. 1. Up till now, it’s consisted of bus drivers ditching uniforms and maintenance workers and drivers refusing overtime.

The union announced last week that if the dispute was not resolved, its members would walk off the job Wednesday and buses would not run for three days.

Desmond said 160,000 people take the bus to work every day, and 100,000 of them don’t have a driver’s licence or access to a car. In total, 350,000 take the bus every day.

“I urge the union not to punish the transit users of this region. There is still time to end this,” Desmond said.

According to Coast Mountain, which operates buses in TransLink’s system, Unifor has refused four calls for mediation.

Desmond did not call on government to intervene.

“I happen to believe in collective bargaining. The workers have a right to collectively bargain with management,” he said, noting that unions and employees under TransLink have reached many deals in the past.

At the heart of the conflict is a $150-million gap in wages between CMBC’s offer and Unifor’s demands. The company said it is offering a 12.2-per-cent raise to skilled trades people and a 9.6-per-cent raise for bus drivers, both over four years.

Unifor has asked repeatedly why CMBC does not take into account wages for Toronto transit employees when making its offers to unionized workers.

Speaking Monday, Desmond said skilled tradespeople and bus drivers are sourced locally, while transit executives are come from “very small and competitive base” around the world.

He said TransLink has been working with alternate service providers, but “you can’t replace a bus system that transports 350,000 people every day.”

Those providers include Mobi, a bike-sharing partner, carpooling services such as gobyRIDE and Liftango, and car-sharing companies like Evo and Car2Go.

SkyTrain, the Canada Line, the West Coast Express and Handy Dart are not affected, though Desmond warned they could be busier than usual.

He said SkyTrain will run extra trains and have additional staff on hand to deal with the influx.

READ MORE: SFU student starts fundraiser to hire charter bus as transit shutdown looms

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

READ MORE: What happens if Metro Vancouver bus drivers start a ‘good work’ strike?


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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

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

South Surrey’s Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann – the Bergmann Piano Duo – will present another colorful Surrey Civic Theatres Digital Stage concert., premiering online March 11. Contributed photo
South Surrey pianists Bergmann Duo blend musical colours

Rhapsody In Blue meets The Red Violin in online concert

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

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

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Most Read