Metro Vancouver’s bus system began to see significant impacts due to transit worker job action on Friday.
The union representing bus drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance workers said there were more than 60 route segments affected.
“Our leadership is telling me that there are 64 segments of routes cancelled out of Vancouver, and we think that there are more going to be across the system,” said Unifor western director Gavin McGarrigle.
“So that will lead to frequency disruptions. And, you know, people aren’t going to have the same access to bus services they had before this dispute.”
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Sixteen SeaBus sailings were also cancelled on Friday.
The cancellations are related to job action by maintenance workers who are refusing to work overtime.
Both Unifor and the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) had previously warned that the overtime ban would eventually lead to trip cancellations as maintenance piled up and buses were taken off the road.
“Coast Mountain Bus Company is making every effort to ensure reliable service, but the union’s job action will continue to have impacts on the system,” a TransLink spokesperson said in a statement.
SkyTrain is not affected by the contract dispute.
To this point, job action has been limited to the overtime ban and a uniform ban for bus drivers.
McGarrigle said the union would not escalate job action further until after Remembrance Day at least.
“But as this drags out, we’re into our second week now, escalations are certainly likely,” he said.
Unifor locals 2200 and 111 represent about 5,000 bus drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance workers who have been without a contract since the end of March.
CMBC is urging transit workers to come back to the bargaining table.
“Our existing offer already gives bus operators and maintenance trade workers a larger wage settlement than other public sector workers, enhanced benefits, and addresses working conditions for bus operators,” said CMBC president Michael McDaniel on Thursday.
“The union has made no attempt to find common ground and have stuck with their $608 million demand that equals the cost of all recently-approved bus service expansion and improvements.”
McDaniel said Friday that the employer was also willing to talk about improving working conditions.
But in a sign that the contract dispute could drag on for some time, the union says it won’t return to the table until the company is willing to talk about wages.
“The company is out there in the media saying they want to get to negotiations, they want to have a mediator, they got in touch and said they were prepared to talk about working conditions,” said McGarrigle.
“But they are not prepared to talk about why Toronto transit workers are paid so much more, they’re not prepared to talk about why SkyTrain skilled trades workers are paid more. So until they give us a signal that they are prepared to discuss the key issues, we don’t see the point in negotiations.”
Earlier this week, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province would not intervene in the dispute, but he vowed Thursday he wouldn’t let the strike drag on for months like in 2001.
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