Unionized SkyTrain employees voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action but there are no immediate plans to disrupt service.

SkyTrain workers vote to strike but talks continue

No deal yet on Canada Line, bus drivers to begin talks

SkyTrain workers have voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary to back their union’s demands in contract talks with TransLink.

Gerry Cunningham, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 7000, said no job action is planned and he’s hopeful a deal can be reached without disrupting rapid transit service.

“It’s too early for that kind of stuff,” he said. “We don’t want to inconvenience the thousands of commuters who rely daily on the services we provide.”

A new round of mediated talks are slated to begin Feb. 22 with the assistance of mediator Grant McArthur.

CUPE represents 530 members who work on the SkyTrain Expo and Millennium Lines, including attendants, control room operators, administrative staff and other workers who maintain trains, tracks and stations.

The union’s current contract with TransLink’s SkyTrain subsidiary, B.C. Rapid Transit Co., expired last Aug. 31 and bargaining has been underway since then.

SkyTrain management tabled a final offer that was rejected by CUPE’s bargaining committee, which then asked members for a strike mandate.

B.C. Rapid Transit spokesperson Jennifer Siddon would not discuss the company’s response in the event of a walkout, saying management are looking forward to mediation.

“A strike vote is a regular part of the negotiations process,” she said. “It’s business as usual for our staff and our customers.”

It’s a similar situation for 180 Canada Line workers, whose negotiators have been in talks with operator Protrans BC after a strike vote was staged in early January. Canada Line employees are seeking a first collective agreement after unionizing last summer.

Talks with the assistance of a mediator broke of Monday (Feb 14) with no agreement.

B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union rep Oliver Rohlfs said it will likely be a few weeks before the mediator reports back with recommendations, if any, to avert a Canada Line walkout.

Until that happens, the union is barred from issuing 72-hour strike notice.

The mediator could seek binding arbitration, he said, or clear the way for strike or lockout action.

Labour negotiations also get underway soon between TransLink and its bus drivers across Metro Vancouver. Their contract expires March 31.

Previous contracts reached with transit workers ensured labour peace during the 2010 Winter Olympics.