Transit operators in Metro Vancouver have served 72-hour strike notice, potentially leaving Greater Vancouver commuters without bus, SeaBus or community shuttle service as early as Friday.
Unifor says Coast Mountain Bus Company, which operates metro-area transit services on behalf of TransLink, has failed to address workers’ concerns about wages, benefits and working conditions.
More than 5,000 members of Unifor Locals 111 and 2200, representing bus drivers, SeaBus and maintenance staff, voted 99 per cent in favour of job action earlier this month.
Although talks are at an impasse, Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s western regional director and lead negotiator, said the bargaining team will stay at the table all week if necessary to reach a deal.
A statement posted online by Coast Mountain Bus Company said it is committed to a negotiated settlement and ready to return to bargaining as soon as possible.
“At this moment, there are no disruptions to service, but [Coast Mountain, B.C. Rapid Transit Company,] Transit Police and TransLink are working to develop a robust contingency plan to assist customers should a worst-case scenario unfold,” the statement said.
The union’s leadership team had been meeting to determine the precise form of job action, and Mr. McGarrigle said that could include the option of rolling strikes or working to rule, but he said Unifor wants to avoid a “negative impact” on the public.
“One thing we can say at this stage is that we have ruled out a complete shutdown, but we are evaluating what type of job action we will take,” he said Monday.
“One thing is clear, if we don’t have our deal by Thursday at midnight, we will be taking legal job action.”
Metro Vancouver’s transit system has seen unprecedented growth over the past three years and leads all transit agencies in Canada and the United States, Coast Mountain said in a statement.
“[Coast Mountain] sees the conditions our bus and SeaBus operators, as well as its customers, face,” the statement said, adding the company has been implementing “unprecedented and significant investments” to bus service since 2016.
The last transit strike in Metro Vancouver was in 2001 when service was idled for four months.
Unifor Local 2200 president Mike Smith said a deal is possible if the company is willing to compromise.
“The deal is there if [the company] wants to reach out. The only reason we could be on strike by the weekend is because the employer has dug in with an unreasonable position,” Mr. Smith said in a statement issued by the union.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.