The new school year has only just begun, and already some students in the Central Okanagan are left wondering how they’ll get to class starting Wednesday morning.
“I don’t have a car, I live downtown, and the buses are the only way I get anywhere,” explained one UBC Okanagan student.
After weeks of escalating job action failed to put pressure on First Transit, the union that represents Kelowna transit workers has issued a strike deadline of Wednesday Oct. 5. The possibility of no bus service is causing stress among many students at UBCO who depend on public transit to get to and from class every single day.
“Students without public transit won’t be able to go to work, access their education, access medical care, buy groceries – so it’s really a pivotal system in our community that needs to be well funded and well supported,” said UBCO Student’ Union VP External, Cade Desjarlais.
According to the Students’ Union, more than 12,000 students are enrolled at the Kelowna-based campus, and roughly 20 per cent of those students use transit to get to and from campus daily.
The potential impact of the strike is so significant that Desjarlais says for some students, it may have major implications on their future.
“I’ve had students come to me saying that they’re going to need to either drop out of classes, change their course schedule, really change their whole plan for the year because of this looming strike,” Desjarlais said.
“It causes a lot of concern for students – stress, anxiety, and it’s something that is really hard to help support.”
Global News reached out to the University to learn more about a possible contingency plan if a transit strike goes ahead. A spokesperson declined to comment on camera, saying UBCO is still optimistic a deal can be struck before Wednesday when buses are expected to stop operating.
First Transit and the union that represents Kelowna transit employees are set to meet at the bargaining table on Tuesday, the day before the strike deadline.