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Bus disruptions rock Metro Vancouver transit system as workers escalate job action

Transit worker dispute hits more services
Day 15 of the Metro Vancouver transit worker job action saw the union's overtime ban shift into a higher gear. Jordan Armstrong has the details.

Significant impacts hit the Metro Vancouver transit system Friday thanks to an escalation of job action by bus drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance workers.

TransLink says bus service could be reduced by as much as 10 per cent as an overtime ban for bus drivers comes into effect.

Drivers will also be refusing overtime next week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The transit agency says it can’t say which bus routes will be affected, as the situation is expected to change throughout the day, but noted that the Vancouver transit centre appears to be hardest hit.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver transit strike: Here’s how your commute may be affected

You can find out more about how your commute may be affected here.

Unifor, the union representing the transit workers, announced the escalation on Thursday when talks broke down between the union and the Coast Mountain Bus Company. Unifor said CMBC had refused to move its position on wages.

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Growing use of Metro Vancouver transit
Growing use of Metro Vancouver transit

However, CMBC insists the union is being unrealistic in its demands.

“We want a resolution as soon as possible, and the easiest resolution — the obvious resolution and, really, the only resolution — is for the union to become more realistic in what they’re asking for,” said TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy on Friday.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver transit strike to escalate Friday as talks break down

CMBC president Michael McDaniel said Thursday that the employer had offered drivers a guaranteed 40 minutes of turnaround time to address concerns about working conditions.

He added that transit operators had been offered a pay boost of $6,000 at the top of the salary range over four years, bringing wages to nearly $70,000 per year. Skilled trades were offered a pay boost of $10,000 at the top of the salary range, bringing annual pay to just under $90,000, he said.

Metro Vancouver transit strike set to escalate as talks break down
Metro Vancouver transit strike set to escalate as talks break down

The union says that’s not good enough and that transit operators’ pay should be looked at in comparison to Toronto’s transit system, while the pay of trades workers should be looked at in comparison to their counterparts in the SkyTrain system.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver transit strike — 2 sides return to bargaining table

Unifor locals 2200 and 111 have been without a contract since the end of March.

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The first stage of job action, which began on Nov. 1, involved drivers working out of uniform and an overtime ban for maintenance workers, which has resulted in daily SeaBus cancellations and gradually increasing bus delays.

TransLink says there are currently no plans for negotiations to resume and is urging the union to come back to the table.

“One solution in situations like this is perhaps mediation,” said Murphy.

“When you have two parties who can’t agree, it makes sense to bring in a mediator to give an opinion, to give a view. Coast Mountain has put that option to the union three times; they’ve refused every time.”