Tensions appear to be escalating between Coast Mountain Bus Company management and Unifor, which represents more than 5,000 workers.
The union has announced that if there isn't a tentative agreement in contract talks by 8 a.m. on Friday (November 1), transit operators will stop wearing uniforms and maintenance workers will refuse to work overtime.
“Our number one goal is a fair contract that ensures our members are working under safe and reasonable conditions so they can best serve the public,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said on the union website. “To minimize the disruption to the public while still ramping up pressure on the employer, we have chosen a measured level of strike action in the first phase.”
Coast Mountain Bus Company claims it's negotiating in good faith and has made "fair and reasonable offers".
"If the union proceeds with job action, it will only punish transit users in Metro Vancouver, many of whom rely on our system for their daily commute," bus company president and CEO Mike McDaniel said today. "Without maintenance overtime, we will see bus and SeaBus service cancellations, affecting customers."
McDaniel said that the union has refused to engage in third-party mediation.
"CMBC is now back at the table and our current offer includes significantly better wages and benefits, and addresses working conditions," McDaniel added. "This package would be greater than most other public sector settlements in B.C. I urge the union to hold off on job action until a deal is done."
Unifor Local 111 represents transit workers; Local 2200 is the bargaining agent for maintenance workers. Their contracts expired on March 31.
According to the union, some transit operators don't have sufficient time for bathroom breaks because of the sharp increase in ridership in recent years.
"The system overload is impacting breaks and recovery time in between trips as drivers struggle to maintain service,” Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said earlier this month. “The end result is overworked drivers and that’s a serious safety issue that must be dealt with at the table.”
Transit operators with two years' experience are paid $32.61 per hour. Mechanics, machinists, electricians, bodypersons, farebox-maintenance mechanics, electronic technicians, welders, tire people, and painters who had completed four-year apprenticeships receive $40.09 per hour.
Coast Mountain Bus Company is not bound by the province's 2019 sustainable services negotiating mandate, according to TransLink.
That's because TransLink's wholly owned bus subsidiary is not considered to be a public-sector employer.
Under the mandate, wage increases are to be kept to two percent per year in three-year contracts.