Central Okanagan transit workers announced Wednesday that they will go on strike Oct. 5 if contract negotiations don’t improve, though the company said if that happens it will work to ensure that the agreements to provide essential transit services are still honoured
It will be the fourth job action the union has set into motion over the last six weeks. Already, bus drivers are refusing overtime hours, not wearing uniforms and not enforcing toll payments. The overtime ban alone is said to have stalled service by 20 to 30 per cent, and the union said it highlights how understaffed the bus system is.
All initiatives by the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722 are aimed at getting First Transit to resume bargaining.
“Our employers are not members of this community, and the fact that we have not heard a word from them in all this time, speaks volumes about their priorities,” Local 1722 president Al Peressini said in a statement.
“We have been clear with the public, the municipalities, and the province that we will not continue to pay the price for an underfunded, broken transit system, and they have not even given this community the respect of continuing to bargain with us.”
Three weeks ago, the union sent a full counter-proposal to First Transit Canada and Peressini said there’s been no response.
“First Transit has left us with no other option, but to go on strike. We want to give ample warning to those who rely on public transit, to start preparing for a complete work stoppage,” he said.
First Transit has been made aware of the walkout, a company spokesperson said.
“We are disappointed that ATU leadership would choose to withdraw service from the residents of Kelowna, rather than return to constructive negotiations at the bargaining table. First Transit has, in fact, reached to ATU regarding their counter-offer, and we have been, and remain ready, to sit down and engage in constructive collective bargaining,” a spokesperson said.
“For now, we will continue to do our best to ensure regular operation. Our service delivery rate is at 88 per cent, even with the actions taken to date. Our lines of communication remain open. Our objective is to reach a collective agreement with ATU Local 1722 that benefits all stakeholders in the transit system, and we hope to do that through the collective bargaining process.”
In the event ATU Local 1722 follows through on its threat to withdraw services from Kelowna residents, the representative said their team will work to ensure that the agreements to provide essential transit services are honoured.
“We remain ready to resume bargaining at any time,” they said.