Both sides in Metro Vancouver’s transit labour dispute will be back at the bargaining table Tuesday in an 11th-hour bid to avert a system-wide bus strike.
The union representing 5,000 bus, SeaBus and maintenance workers said Monday that it would meet with the Coast Mountain Bus Company, and that Unifor national president Jerry Dias would be present.
“We are going back to the table out of respect for the passengers that we serve, out of respect for the workers that need to get to work and out of respect for the students that need to get to school,” said Unifor western director Gavin McGarrigle.
The union has warned that if a deal isn’t reached by Tuesday night, there will be no buses running across the region from Wednesday to Friday.
Bargaining is slated to resume at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond told media that a three-day work stoppage would have a “devastating impact on the people of Metro Vancouver.”
He said the job action would have the greatest impact on the region’s most vulnerable people, namely “the elderly, people with disabilities, people with no other options.”
He said the work stoppage will also impact students and the 165,000 people who use buses each day to commute to work.
Globalnews.ca coverage of the Metro Vancouver transit strike
“Make no mistake, this work stoppage, especially if it comes to a full-on strike after this three-day planned action, will have an impact on the region’s economy.”
Desmond outlined the services that will continue to run during three-day shutdown, including the SkyTrain, West Coast Express, some community shuttles, and West Vancouver transit, except for the 257 express bus. HandyDart will be operating, but Desmond warned it will be busy.
Desmond also announced TransLink’s plans to help customers get around during those three days, including an increase in Expo and Millennium line frequency, relaxing rules on bringing bikes onto trains during peak hours, and encouraging commuters to arrange alternate modes of transport, including car-sharing and carpooling.
He said TransLink is also working to set up temporary pickup and drop-off zones near SkyTrain and West Coast Express stations for commuters who need to be driven to stations.
It is also looking to allow drop-offs and pickups at unused bus stations and bus loops, he said.
Desmond urged the union “not to punish the transit users of the region.”
“There is still time to end this,” he said.
Transit workers say they want to improved working conditions, including guaranteed break times.
They also want to see transit operators salaries hiked in line with what Toronto transit operators are paid, and mechanics wages linked to SkyTrain maintenance workers’.
TransLink says there’s about a $150-million gap between what the union is asking for and CMBC’s offer.
It says operators have been offered a $6,000 annual pay hike and a 40-minute guaranteed recovery time during shifts, while maintenance workers have been offered a $10,000 pay bump.