VANCOUVER – Bus drivers in Metro Vancouver could take job action as early as Friday morning after serving 72-hour strike notice to Coast Mountain Bus Company, the contract operator for TransLink.
Unifor, which represents the drivers, says if an agreement isn’t reached within that time frame, job action will begin.
“All options are on the table, work-to-rule, rolling strikes, we’re considering it all,” Unifor’s Gavin McGarrigle told CTV News. “The only thing we’re ruling out right now is a complete shut down, but we will take action and it will have an impact if we don’t reach a contract by Thursday at midnight.”
Unifor says there continues to be issues over wages, benefits and working conditions for bus drivers.
“They need to have time to go to the washroom, have a bite to eat, just simply reset themselves and they aren’t having the time to do that,” McGarrigle said. “We need to make sure wages are fair and competitive and make sure generally they are respected by the company.”
Unifor says overcrowding on buses is also leading to safety concerns.
“It has an impact on their mental health,” McGarrigle said. “When the passengers are feeling they are being passed up, when the drivers are being overworked eventually something’s gotta give.”
McGarrigle says both sides have cleared their schedules to allow for further negotiations this week.
Coast Mountain Bus Company said in a statement it remains committed to “reaching an acceptable negotiated settlement and is ready to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.”
CMBC says it has not been informed what form the job action would take if the two side can’t reach a deal by the Unifor’s deadline of Thursday at midnight.
CMBC says it has been implementing significant investments to bus service over the past three years including a projected 18 per cent increase in service by 2021, which it says should help with overcrowding. It also says more than 1,000 bus operators have been hired over the last two years, with plans to hire an additional 1,300 by 2021.
CMBC and TransLink are now working on a contingency plan in case the job action goes ahead on Friday.
Earlier this month, Unifor Local 111 voted 99 per cent in favour of striking after months of contract negotiations broke down on Oct. 3.
The last time bus drivers walked off in Metro Vancouver was in 2001. That strike lasted four months.