Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle, left, Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation chair Jonathan Cote, right, speak about the transit strike at separate press conferences in New Wesminster on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

UPDATE: Unifor says transit strike will continue till CMBC offers a new deal

Transit strike has gone into its fourth day

The chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is asking both sides of the transit strike to come to the table as job action entered its fourth day.

“I am disappointed that we have not been able to resolve the labour dispute between Unifor and Coast Mountain Bus Company,” said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote standing on his city hall steps on Monday.

“The bus service in the Metro Vancouver region is so critical to our transportation system and the expansion of our bus service is a significant part of the mayors’ 10-year-plan.”

The mayors’ council is not involved in negotiations, but its $7-billion 10-year-transit plan could be affected.

Cote said the $600-million cost difference between the union’s request and the employer’s offer was “incredibly significant” and would hamper the transit system. Unifor represents 5,000 bus drivers and maintenance workers across Metro Vancouver.

Negotiations broke off on Friday, following the union enacting its first phase of job action that morning with a uniform ban for bus drivers and an overtime ban for maintenance workers.

So far, only SeaBus service has been affected, with many trips cancelled last weekend and another six on Monday.

“I know how hard transit operators work, and they deserve a fair negotiated settlement,” Cote said.

“It is disappointing to hear Unifor leadership suggest that the wage increases be done by scaling back the expansion plans that we do have for bus service in the region.”

READ MORE: Transit strike would mean no uniforms, overtime for maintenance workers

At a news conference at Unifor’s offices in New Westminster, western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said Unifor members are “big fans” of expanding public transit, but bus drivers not getting enough time for bathroom breaks is “inhumane.”

He said the union is willing to resume talks if the employer indicates they will amend their latest offer, which would increase maintenance workers’ wages 12.2 per cent and transit workers’ wages 9.6 per cent over four years, and enhance benefits and improve working conditions.

McGarrigle still pointed to a $3-an-hour wage gap for his members compared to their Toronto counterparts, and another gap compared to their SkyTrain colleagues.

“We do not understand why skilled trades workers who are working on SkyTrain under TransLink are paid so much more than the skilled trade workers that work for Coast Mountain Bus Company.”

Passengers could expect buses to be cancelled by midweek, he continued, and if Coast Mountain did not return to the bargaining table, the union would be forced to bring about a “complete work stoppage.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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