This past weekend, TransLink's senior media relations manager, Ben Murphy, went on Global B.C. News and heaped all the blame on CUPE 7000 for a looming SkyTrain strike on the Expo and Millennium lines.
Murphy alleged that the public was directing "white-hot rage" against the union for threatening to withdraw services for 150,000 passengers, beginning on Tuesday (December 10).
He also described CUPE 7000's approach as a "real error" and a "tactical train wreck".
That elicited a sharp response from CUPE 7000, which characterized Murphy's statements as "inaccurate" and "incendiary".
“In my own statements to date, I have maintained a tone of respect throughout," CUPE 7000 president Tony Rebelo said in a statement. "So it is unfortunate that TransLink has chosen to go down this road. Such comments about our members do nothing to further bargaining and, on the contrary, have slowed down the process for both parties."
He added that getting an agreement remains the union's top priority, saying he's committed to negotiating a new contract with no disruption of service.
The union plans to make no further media statements "until further notice".
Murphy also claimed in his Global B.C. interview that "the union leader", presumably Rebelo, "is trying to justify this for safety" and that he's making some "bizarre arguments".
"The reality is that they've just decided to push the nuclear button and they're going to do a three-day system shutdown," Murphy told Global B.C.'s Neetu Garcha.
According to Murphy's Linkedin profile, he was a reporter for three years with Australia's Seven Network before joining TransLink as a senior media relations adviser in April.
He also worked as a communications adviser for politicians with the free-enterprise Liberal Party of Australia.
CUPE 7000 represents 900 SkyTrain employees, whose last contract expired on August 31.
The union issued 72 hours' strike notice a day after Unifor Local 111 and Local 2200 reached an agreement with Coast Mountain Bus Company.
In the Coast Mountain Bus Company dispute, the main spokesperson was the bus company president, Mike McDaniel.
He played the "bad cop" role for TransLink in front of the media until near the end of negotiations. That's when TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond suddenly stepped into the spotlight as a strike loomed, playing the "good cop" by extending an olive branch rather than trashing the union.
This time around, it appears as though Murphy is TransLink's bad cop in the electronic media, rather than the new president of B.C Rapid Transit Company, Michel Ladrak, whose name has appeared on written statements from the company.
B.C. Rapid Transit Company and Coast Mountain Bus Company are wholly owned subsidiaries of TransLink.