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Union joins TransLink bailout lobbying effort

CUPE 7000 ad campaign will support transit authority bid for $200 million to offset losses.
TransLink has forecast a $216 million operating loss this year.

The union representing SkyTrain and WestCoast Express employees is kicking in $22,500 to a $90,000 ad campaign in support of TransLink’s $200 million bailout request.

A March 3 memo to CUPE 7000 members about a special general meeting said their dues would not only fund the campaign, but members would also wear buttons on the job, appear as models in ads, share campaign messages on social media and urge the public to contact elected officials to call for more funding.

The campaign is to include digital ads, printed materials and a website. Some of the ads will appear on billboards and bus shelters at SkyTrain stations and on SkyTrain vehicles.

“The campaign will reinforce the message that a fully funded transit system is a critical component of public infrastructure in maintaining strong communities,” the memo said. “It will also inspire new confidence in the system as a safe and sustainable operation that serves the entire community and plays a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change.”

The $90,000 campaign aims to promote CUPE 7000 members’ work on a system that serves students, seniors and workers. CUPE National is paying half the cost, with CUPE locals 7000 and 4500 paying a quarter each.

TransLink expects to spend $2 billion in 2022, with $933 million in revenue from taxation and $619 million from fares and programs. In February, it forecast a $216 million operating loss this year.

TransLink had expected to start 2022 at 60% of pre-COVID ridership and reach 90% by year-end, but that was before the omicron wave hit. The transit and roads agency fears it may not return to pre-pandemic levels due to the adoption of electric cars and work-from-home. Ridership plunged 83% and TransLink lost $75 million per month when the pandemic hit two years ago. It temporarily laid-off 1,500 employees and cut services. The B.C. and federal governments propped-up TransLink with a joint $644 million infusion in 2020.

Meanwhile, Unifor-represented Coast Mountain Bus Co. (CMBC) workers are getting a one-year contract extension to March 31, 2023. Almost three-quarters of members ratified the deal, which includes a 3% pay hike for bus drivers and 5% increase for maintenance and SeaBus workers starting April 1.

CMBC requested extending the contract for 5,000 Unifor workers. 

BC Transit-employed members of Local 114, however, have been on strike since Jan. 29 in the Sea-to-Sky corridor.