Unifor members prepare picket signs at union headquarters in New Westminster on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. The union has said its workers will put buses and SeaBus behind picket lines starting Wednesday, Nov. 27. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

$150M sticking point: Coast Mountain, Unifor fight over wage gap as transit lockout looms

Strike has been ongoing since Nov. 1

The union representing bus drivers and maintenance workers in Metro Vancouver said they will walk off the job come Nov. 27.

The announcement came Wednesday morning in a labour dispute between the Coast Mountain Bus Company and Unifor that has run since Nov. 1.

Unifor said the full strike will run Wednesday to Friday next week, but that service will resume as before on Saturday. The action will affect bus and SeaBus service.

Western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said they felt TransLink had left them no options beyond going to a full walkout.

“In the past few days, it has become clear to us that TransLink has no intention of settling a fair contract,” McGarrigle said at a press conference at Unifor’s New Westminster headquarters.

At issue are wages and mandatory breaks. The Coast Mountain Bus Company has said it believes its offer is fair and exceeds compensation for other public sector workers in B.C.

However, McGarrigle said worker want wages more in line with what SkyTrain ones do, and a comparison to transit workers in the Greater Toronto Area.

In a statement, CMBC said it was “completely unacceptable” for riders to be dragged into the labour dispute.

“Coast Mountain Bus Company is addressing the union’s complaints about working conditions as well as providing generous wage increases beyond what’s in other public sector settlements in British Columbia,” McDaniel said.

“The union is willing to disrupt lives of commuters to get the wages it wants.”

Speaking at TransLink headquarters in New Westminster, spokesperson Ben Murphy said the companies were “incredibly disappointed” in Unifor’s actions.

Murphy said Coast Mountain was asking Unifor to come back to the table with “reasonable” wage demands.

“We have reached the point where there is $150 million gap in wages and that needs to be resolved,” Murphy said.

He reiterated CMBC’s point of view that the company hires from the Vancouver area, and their wage offers exceed others in the public sector, leading to “lineups out the door” when it hires bus operators.

Labour Minister Harry Bains indicated the province would not get involved in the dispute.

“This is a matter between the employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and the union,” Bain said. “They have successfully bargained numerous collective agreements together without any outside involvement. It’s our expectation that they will be able to do so again.”

READ MORE: Union to prepare for picket lines, announce new measures in transit strike escalation

More to come.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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