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Metro Vancouver transit strike: Union to announce next escalation Wednesday

A Coast Mountain Bus Company driver seen out of uniform as a part of the first phase of job action.
A Coast Mountain Bus Company driver seen out of uniform as a part of the first phase of job action. Simon Little / Global News

Metro Vancouver transit strike: Union to announce next escalation Wednesday

The union representing 5,000 Metro Vancouver bus drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance workers is preparing to unveil the next phase of job action, amid stalled contract talks.

READ MORE: Transit strike day 20: Union plans system-wide shutdown on 3 days next week

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Unifor Locals 2200 and 111 have been without a contract since March 31, and have been escalating job action against the Coast Mountain Bus Company for more than two weeks.

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

The union says it will announce the next escalation on Wednesday and provide “strike training” to members.

A union spokesperson said that training would include stapling together placard signs and other preparation for picket lines.

TransLink responded to the union’s announcement with a statement saying, “Unifor has not advised Coast Mountain of their plans for escalating job action and once again they’re focusing on stunts and disruption rather than working towards a resolution.”

Click to play video 'More disruptions on day 18 of transit strike' More disruptions on day 18 of transit strike
More disruptions on day 18 of transit strike – Nov 18, 2019

The announcement came on a relatively quiet day of job action.

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TransLink said no SeaBus sailings were cancelled Tuesday, and bus drivers were only refusing overtime Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week, meaning fewer delays on bus routes.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver bus, SeaBus job action has begun. Here’s what you need to know

An ongoing overtime ban by maintenance workers meant some routes were still reporting trip cancellations.

Talks between the union and CMBC broke off last Thursday, when the union accused the company of a “bait-and-switch,” saying it was only willing to negotiate on working conditions, but had refused to address wages.

Click to play video 'Overtime ban for bus drivers expected to disrupt service for passengers' Overtime ban for bus drivers expected to disrupt service for passengers
Overtime ban for bus drivers expected to disrupt service for passengers – Nov 18, 2019

CMBC says it has made a generous offer to the union in excess of other public sector settlements, which includes a $6,000 annual pay bump for transit operators and a $10,000 annual pay bump for skilled trades workers.

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READ MORE: Transit workers are refusing to work overtime. How much does the system rely on it?

The company says the union needs to be more “realistic” in its demands, and is urging members to accept mediation in the dispute.

When talks broke off again last week, CMBC said the wage gap between what the employer is offering and what the union wants is about $150 million over 10 years.

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.

No date has been scheduled for talks to resume.