Blue Bus drivers, mechanics set to strike in West Vancouver on Thursday

Drivers and operators of West Vancouver's Blue Bus system are set to strike for wage parity and other benefits, beginning Thurs. Sept. 8, 2022. Global News

Some public transit users in the District of West Vancouver are being asked to find other means of commuting as Blue Bus drivers in the city prepare to strike.

The Amalgamated Transit Union 134, which represents Blue Bus drivers and mechanics, confirmed job action will begin Thursday. According to the union, the employer did not respond to an offer of binding arbitration to settle on a new contract, forcing it to strike to reach a new collective agreement.

“We regret inconveniencing our valued riders but we simply have no choice anymore,” said union president Cornel Neagu in a Tuesday news release.

“West Vancouver District is provoking this dispute by refusing to bargain a fair contract and now not even accepting our offer of binding arbitration.”

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Blue Bus drivers and mechanics are seeking wage parity with operators in Metro Vancouver, a mandatory five-minute recovery period in between routes, a reduction in split shifts, and improvements to the current long-term disability plan. The ATU Local 134 said it made the arbitration offer to West Vancouver after dropping a request for washroom breaks and “almost half its other bargaining positions.”

The district declined to comment Tuesday, but in a written statement, said it is in the process of “reviewing and responding” to the arbitration request and “wishes to avoid a strike action of any kind.” The union, it noted, declined an Aug. 30 offer to return to the bargaining table with a mediator.

“We have put forward a strong proposal package to the Union and are optimistic that our employees will be able to review this and appreciate and understand the improvements it contains,” it wrote.

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West Vancouver said it remains “committed” to reaching a fair agreement. As of the end of August, it said the union’s overtime ban had led to a service reduction of 10 per cent on weekdays and 13 per cent on weekends.

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District spokesperson Donna Powers previously told Global News that West Vancouver had offered a wage hike of three per cent for all workers and five per cent for skilled trades, and a schedule aimed at reducing the wage gap with Coast Mountain Bus Company shuttle drivers.

Coast Mountain Bus Company service on the North Shore will not be impacted by the job action. West Vancouver’s Blue Bus system transports about 18,000 passengers per day on 64 buses.

-With files from Simon Little

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