A bus driver at TransLink's new transit centre in Surrey.

Bus drivers okay brief cease fire in labour talks

One-year contract extension with TransLink half over

The threat of a strike disrupting bus service in Metro Vancouver has lifted – at least for now.

Unionized bus drivers and mechanics agreed to a temporary wage freeze when they ratified a one-year contract extension with TransLink last week.

But since the old contract expired in April, the extension is already half over and amounts to more of a cease fire than a lasting labour peace.

“We will be going back to the bargaining table soon and hope that when we do, the issue of sustainable funding for improving public transit, especially the overloaded bus system, has been resolved,” said Don MacLeod, president of local 111 of the Canadian Auto Workers.

The union represents 3,500 bus drivers and 900 mechanics at TransLink’s Coast Mountain Bus Co. subsidiary.

Members voted 59 per cent in favour of the contract extension.

Metro Vancouver mayors vote Oct. 7 on a transit expansion package that requires higher guaranteed revenue sources, including a two-cent gas tax hike and a property tax increase if necessary.

MacLeod said the union will step up campaigns this fall for more buses, including night buses.

The number of buses operating falls far short of demand, he said, adding more riders also want to take late-night routes in the wake of stiffer roadside penalties for drinking and driving.

Longer three-year agreements were signed earlier this year with unionized workers who run the Canada Line and other SkyTrain lines.

The SkyTrain contract gave rapid transit workers a three-per-cent pay hike in the first year. They get whatever bus drivers eventually negotiate for their second and third years.