Possibility of a strike by TransLink operators and Seabus workers looms over the transit system as negotiations broke off between the union and TransLink.
A failure to find common ground on wages, benefits, and working conditions led to the stalemate between Unifor, which represents the employees, and Coast Mountain Bus Company, a subsidiary of TransLink two days ago.
“Months of talks have failed to produce any meaningful mandate to address wages, benefits and working conditions,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Our members have been working without a contract since March 31 and Coast Mountain has still to come to the table with an offer that addresses the key issues.”
Coast Mountain Bus Company was recently named the best public transportation system in North America. Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle said the credit for that win went to workers.
“TransLink won this award in part because of the on-time service of our members, but what the company isn’t recognizing is that level of service was achieved due to lack of proper breaks and recovery time between trips,” he said.
McGarrigle said Coast Mountain was also failing to address a serious understaffing issue, with overcrowded bus trips increasing 36 per cent between 2016 and 2018. The understaffing issue was even more egregious, especially when TransLink data showed ridership is on the ridge with an 18 per cent increase between 2016 and 2018 alone, said Balbir Mann, Unifor Local 111 President.
“We are negotiating now to ensure that our members can properly deliver quality service to the region’s growing population,” he said.
Unifor Coast Mountain members will hold a strike vote in a series of meetings at the Aria Banquet Hall in Surrey on Thursday, October 10, 2019.
“Our members know that the public relies on them and it is our sincere hope that Coast Mountain comes back with a serious offer to avoid inconvenience to transit riders,” said Mike Smith, Unifor Local 2200 President.
More than 5,000 Unifor members work in the lower mainland at Coast Mountain Bus Company, with Unifor Local 111 representing transit operators in conventional and community shuttle and Unifor Local 2200 representing maintenance and Seabus workers.
Unifor Local 111 doesn’t involve SkyTrain workers.