A rider pays for a bus with their TransLink compass card in Metro Vancouver. (GoToVan/Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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

Unifor has said they could get ‘creative’ with fare collection if transit strike drags on

What would happen if Metro Vancouver transit workers move into a “good work” strike? That could happen, if Unifor gets “creative” with their job action, as union representatives have alluded to.

Speaking prior to the strike, Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said the strike will go on go on for as long as necessary.

“We’re prepared to be patient. We’re prepared to be creative,” McGarrigle told reporters on Oct. 31, the day before the job action began. Transit workers are asking for guaranteed breaks and wages closer to SkyTrain and Toronto area transit workers.

READ MORE: Negotiations break down between Metro Vancouver bus drivers, employer as strike looms

Since then, bus drivers have ditched their uniforms and maintenance workers have refused overtime, leading to dozens of SeaBus cancellations and disruptions to some bus routes.

The 5,000 transit workers represented by Unifor work for Coast Mountain Bus Company, not TransLink directly, so SkyTrain is unaffected by the strike.

On Wednesday morning, Unifor and the bus company sat down at the bargaining table after a more than weeklong break. Both sides have said they are hopeful a deal can be reached and this morning, CMBC president Michael McDaniel said they were “open to improving our overall proposal at the bargaining table.”

Negotiations had initially broken down on the evening of Oct. 31, and the strike has gone on for 13 days as of Wednesday. If both sides don’t reach a deal, bus drivers will refuse overtime shifts for Friday, leading to service disruptions of an estimated 10-15 per cent.

READ MORE: Bargaining to resume in Metro Vancouver transit strike as bus driver overtime ban looms

McGarrigle has said “there are things we could do with respect to fare collection.”

But what would that mean?

Thomas Knight, a professor of organizational behaviour and human resources at the UBC Sauder School of Business, said such job action is called a “good work” strike.

“It would certainly be provocative, and an escalation that might make it more difficult to negotiate on the issues,” Knight told Black Press Media by phone.

“The company would not look favourably on that.”

Good work strikes are rare; Knight couldn’t think of one that’s happened in B.C. in recent history. Worldwide, the Industrial Workers of the World union said there have been at least three, including a 1968 transit strike in Lisbon where workers gave free rides to passengers to protest for wage increases.

Knight said not collecting fares could work as a pressure tactic.

“What they’re trying to do is appeal to a section of their ridership,” he said.

“But who knows how much support they have.”

What a good work strike could do is bring senior government attention to the issue. Earlier this month, Premier John Horgan said the province had “no plans to interfere.”

But speaking last week, the premier warned that won’t happen again.

“I’ll remind you that the last time the Official Opposition was in government there was a four-month transit strike in Vancouver and I can assure you that won’t happen on my watch,” Horgan said while attending an event in Courtenay. The strike the premier referred to took place in 2001, and was the last strike held by transit workers in Metro Vancouver.

READ MORE: Horgan won’t intervene in Metro Vancouver transit strike

But when that would be remains uncertain, particularly, Knight said, in a union-friendly NDP government.

The Liberal government “legislated the terms and ordered them back to work,” he said. “This government I suspect would step in much earlier… but I don’t think their first act would be to legislate the terms of an agreement.”

Instead, the NDP is likely to direct the parties back to mediation, Knight noted.


@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

Surrey shares in ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ movie success

Jim Carrey among actors in scenes filmed at Joe Brown Park in 2018

Cloverdale resident wants speeders bumped from his road

Lord Tweedsmuir teacher Walter van Halst says safety is number one concern

Surrey mom to plead guilty in U.S. college admissions scheme

According to charging documents, Xiaoning Sui paid $400,000 to a sham charity to have her son admitted at UCLA

Surrey councillor claims Fleetwood residents caught ‘off guard’ by corporate report

Council approved area plan boundary for Fleetwood that left many “scrambling” to understand, Pettigrew says

Elderly White Rock assault victim upgraded to stable condition

Incident occurred Feb. 19 in the city’s Five Corners district

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Chilliwack physiotherapist charged with sexual assault

Mounties urging other potential victims to make contact

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

RCMP clarifies stance on removing officers from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Police say will remove officers only if hereditary chiefs keep road open to pipeline workers

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Abbotsford mosque gets online hate for exhibit on Jesus

Event meant to bring community together gets attacked teaching religous differences

Petition slams Victoria councillor who chastised police after Wetsuweten protest

Ben Isitt calls effort to get him suspended is not a ‘reliable barometer of public opinion’

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

PHOTOS: 2020 BC Winter Games kick off in Fort St. John

More than 1,000 of B.C.’s best athletes will be competing over the next three days

Most Read