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‘Strike averted’ but bus service in Kelowna suspended for the day

Click to play video: 'Full Public transit service will resume in the Central Okanagan on Thursday after one day strike.'
Full Public transit service will resume in the Central Okanagan on Thursday after one day strike.
Central Okanagan transit buses will be back in service tomorrow after a one day strike. While the two sides involved in the labour dispute were unable to reach a new collective agreement, they did agree to go to binding arbitration. While the immediate dispute will soon be resolved, the union representing transit workers says there's a much bigger fight on its’ hands involving the entire transit system. Klaudia Van Emmerik explains. – Oct 5, 2022

Central Okanagan transit users will be without service for one day only, according to the union.

“Late last night the company agreed to a proposal that we presented to them back on Aug. 29 to go to binding arbitration,” Al Perissini, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722, said.

“So a strike has been averted. Unfortunately, there will be no bus service today but will be up and running with regular service on Thursday.”

Read more: Kelowna bus drivers offered 9% over three years, First Transit says

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Binding arbitration is a hearing before an arbitrator acceptable to both parties in the dispute. The process allows both parties to present their cases before an arbitrator.

“It was surprising. It was a little disappointing. We wanted to reach a deal,” Perissini said.

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The union issued a strike deadline of Oct. 5 after weeks of escalating job action seemingly failed to put pressure on the employer.

 

 

“BC Transit sincerely apologizes for the temporary disruption of service today. We remind customers handyDART service for riders requiring transportation to renal dialysis, cancer treatment, multiple sclerosis and other specialist appointments has been deemed essential and will continue to operate during this service disruption today. All other pre-booked trips will be notified of cancellation,” BC Transit said in a statement.

While the delivery of the bus service is overseen by BC Transit, it’s a private company, First Transit, that is the operator.

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It’s the second strike the union has launched in six years with the same company, Perissini said earlier in the week.

He believes the system is underfunded and would be better off being operated by crown corporation BC Transit, just like it is in Victoria.

“We’re too big to be run by a private company,” Perissini said. “It’s time BC transit  jumped in and took it over aa public system. It’s a private for profit system, which to me doesn’t work.”

Kelowna mayor Colin Basran told Global News he’s already reached out to BC Transit to look into the possibility of not rolling over the contract with First Transit when it expires at the end of March.

“There’s the possibility of rolling that contract over not just once but twice,” Basran said. “As a result of conversations we’ve had with BC transit that will not be happening and we will be looking at and have started conversations with the Transportation Minister on what a new service delivery model may look like.”

 

Click to play video: 'Bus drivers union call on BC Transit to take over operation of system and eliminate private company component'
Bus drivers union call on BC Transit to take over operation of system and eliminate private company component

He noted that wages, which are about $5 less per hour than they are in Victoria, would be more competitive with BC Transit, allowing for better recruitment and retention of employees.

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For their part, First Transit said it offered wage increases of up to nine per cent over three years. This includes COLA-related adjustments in years two and three.

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