Both sides of the Metro Vancouver transit dispute returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday.
As he walked into talks at a Surrey hotel on Wednesday morning, Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said he hopes the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) has changed its position so that outstanding issues can be addressed.
“You always have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “So we certainly hope for the best. We don’t want to see this dispute continue on any longer than it has to.”
McGarrigle said the union, which represents the striking transit workers, is prepared to talk all day Wednesday and Thursday to avoid an escalation in the dispute. On Tuesday, McGarrigle said Unifor has instructed drivers to refuse all overtime shifts on Friday if a deal isn’t reached.
In a statement issued just before the talks resumed, CMBC president Michael McDaniel said the company is optimistic that common ground can be found.
“With bargaining set to resume this morning, Coast Mountain Bus Company remains optimistic that we can find common ground with the union and work toward an agreement which satisfies both parties,” he said.
“While our current offer is in excess of public-sector settlements in British Columbia today, we are open to improving our overall proposal at the bargaining table. This includes building on the proposal we’ve already put forward to improve working conditions.
“The message we’ve heard from our customers and employees is abundantly clear. They want both parties to find a solution which brings an end to job action. We know that compromise by both sides will be necessary to reach a deal. Further job action will continue to disrupt service and affect tens of thousands of transit users.”
Ten SeaBus sailings have been cancelled for Wednesday.
Workers have been without a contract since the end of March, and the union says its members are increasingly stretched amid surging ridership on the Metro Vancouver transit system.
The union alleges CMBC’s most recent offer did not adequately address concerns about those working conditions, including guaranteeing minimum break times.
— With files from Sean Boynton