UPDATED: Union says Metro Vancouver transit strike action will escalate starting tomorrow

Bus drivers will refuse overtime starting Friday

The ongoing transit strike in Metro Vancouver will ramp up Friday as talks between the two sides have broken down yet again.

Unifor’s Western regional director Gavin McGarrigle announced late this morning that talks with Coast Mountain Bus Company, which manages the region's transit on behalf of TransLink, had failed to come to a “fair resolution for transit workers” and that Friday’s overtime ban by bus drivers will go ahead.

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Talks between the two sides broke down two weeks ago, prompting the union to launch an overtime ban by mechanics that caused almost daily SeaBus sailing cancellations and numerous bus route delays or cancellations.

Earlier this week, the union agreed to return to the bargaining table but warned that if an agreement could not be reached it would add transit drivers to the overtime ban by Friday, affecting as much as 15 per cent of bus service.

In a statement released shortly after Unifor’s announcement, CMBC said the company is “disappointed an agreement couldn’t be reached today at the bargaining table.”

The company said it came forward with an “enhanced proposal” that included guaranteed recovery time and wage increases.

“This enhanced proposal directly focuses on working conditions,” CMBC president Michael McDaniel said in a press release. “Wage demands over and above the increases we have already offered will come at the expense of services for customers. We need a deal that’s realistic. It’s time for the union to be willing to compromise.”

According to the press release, the company’s offer included a guarantee of at least 40 minutes of recovery time for every scheduled shift; and, under regular road conditions transit operators would be paid double time for any minute of recovery time they don’t receive under 40 minutes.

“The proposal also clarifies that operators are permitted to use a washroom whenever necessary.”

The offer would also see the top wage for operators increased by about $6,100 over the next four years to $69,900; and the top annual wage for skilled trades would increase by about $10,000 over the next four years to $88,000.

“CMBC is asking the union to be more realistic about wage demands, given that our current offer far exceeds public sector settlements in British Columbia,” the company’s statement reads.

Even if an agreement is reached soon, Metro Vancouver commuters could still face transit woes as talks have collapsed between CUPE Local 7000 and the B.C. Rapid Transit Company which handles SkyTrain service on the Expo and Millennium lines.

The union says workers have been without a contract since August, with wages and staffing levels listed as key issues.

CUPE Local 7000 has not yet conducted a strike vote, meaning job action is not imminent, nor would it affect the Canada Line connection to Vancouver International Airport, or the West Coast Express commuter train between Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Canada Line and West Coast Express workers are represented by other unions.

Michel Ladrak, president of B.C. Rapid Transit, said the company remains committed to the bargaining process and suggested mediation may help solve the current issues with Local 7000.

- with files from The Canadian Press

This story has been updated to add comments from Coast Mountain Bus Company president Michael McDaniel.

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